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Ask Dr. Lynch: First Day of School Checklist

EducationWorld Q&A columnist Dr. Matthew Lynch is an associate professor of education at Langston University. Dr. Lynch provides expert advice on everything from classroom management to differentiated instruction. Read all of his columns here, and be sure to submit your own question.

Dr. Matthew Lynch

This week, reader James L. asks:

Like many first-year teachers across the United States, I am eagerly awaiting the new school year and experiencing a great deal of anxiety at the same time. I can't shake the feeling that I am forgetting to dot all of my i’s and cross all of my t’s. Can you provide me with a checklist of things that need to be done before the first day of school? I will be a middle-school social studies teacher.


James, you're right--there are many other things you need to prepare before you can feel comfortable about welcoming your new students. Use the checklist below as a guide to make sure you have taken care of all the aspects of classroom preparation that need to be addressed prior to the first day of school. This list is not exhaustive, but it does cover all of the basics.

Teacher Supplies

Being an organized teacher will make your life a whole lot easier. If you have your materials and supplies in one place, you will not have to frantically look for folders or paper clips at the last minute. It will also help your classroom management efforts and decrease the frequency of classroom disruptions and misbehavior. You should also make sure you have an adequate amount of the following items:

  • Textbooks
  • Lesson Plan book
  • Classroom reading books
  • Attendance register
  • Paper clips
  • Grade book
  • Rubber bands
  • Stapler and staple pins
  • Tissue
  • Pencil, pens, erasers and pencil sharpeners
  • Tapes of different kinds
  • Folders and folder tabs
  • Miscellaneous supply items

Take-Home Packets for New Students

Take-home packets are a must for students at the start of the new school year. This packet helps you communicate your class  objectives to students and their parents. It also helps you communicate important information concerning rules and consequences, the school calendar, special events, and any new activities or changes that have been made over the summer months. If you keep parents informed from the beginning, you have taken the first step in building strong parent-teacher relationships. Make sure that you include the following in the take-home packet:

  • Welcome message to parents
  • School/class rules and consequences
  • Supply list
  • Emergency and approval forms to be signed by parents
  • Transport rules and bus route
  • Other important information

Additionally, you may want to accomplish the following during the first week of the new academic year.

  • Prepare class rolls and records.
  • Create name tags for each child.
  • Get to know the schedule for each student, including gym, art, library and lunch schedules.
  • Create a folder that can be used by a substitute teacher in case you are unable to make it to the school; this should include the daily schedule and seating chart.
  • Create a file for each student that contains information about the child and correspondence from parents.
  • Develop tentative lesson plans for the next week and place them in a folder.

Completion of items on this checklist will surely help you feel more comfortable, organized and in control when the horde of excited students appears at your door on the first day of school! Also, by starting the year off with a bang, you are setting the tone for the rest of the school year. Instead of dealing with classroom management issues, organizational issues and disgruntled parents, you will be able to enjoy a relatively stress-free year. Good luck to you, and I hope you have an outstanding year.

Related resources

Advice for New Teachers
EducationWorld’s Back-to-School Archive
A Teacher’s Back-to-School Supply List
Back-to-School Guide for Beginning Teachers


About Dr. Lynch

Dr. Matthew Lynch is a Chair and Associate Professor of Education at Langston University and a blogger for the Huffington Post. Dr. Lynch also is the author of the newly released book It’s Time for a Change: School Reform for the Next Decade and A Guide to Effective School Leadership Theories. Please visit his Web site for more information.

If you have a question for “Ask Dr. Lynch,” submit it here. Topics can be anything education-related, from classroom management to differentiated instruction.

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