Set it and Forget it: Classroom Activities & Systems To Prep For Year-Long Use - The Classroom Nook


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Set it and Forget it: Classroom Activities & Systems To Prep For Year-Long Use

Greatest kitchen invention of all time?

The crock-pot!

There's nothing better than walking into your house after a long day of work and being welcomed by delicious smells coming from the crock-pot that you prepped that morning.  Knowing that dinner is ready and all you have to do is sit down and grab a fork is such as good feeling, right?

The crock-pot invention is even better on those hectic week nights where you ended up having to stay at school late, run a bunch of errands, or encounter any other interruption that may arise and delay you from getting home to get dinner on the table.

When I know that I have something prepped and ready to go in the crock-pot, it's one less thing on my to-do list, one less thing to think about, and one less thing to scramble to get done.

But - I'm not here to talk to you about 10 easy meals you can prep in your crock-pot - nope - I'll leave that to another blogger.

What I AM here to talk about is what you can prep for your CLASSROOM now to have ready to use all year long.  I'm not just talking back-to-school planning.  I'm talking about planning stuff you'll use alllllll year long.

Over, and over, and over.

I'm about to save you TONS of time during the school year.  No last minute, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants planning and scrambling!

Having some activities and systems set in place before the school year starts  will take work off your teacher plate, and let you worry about more pressing classroom decisions and tasks.  AND - prepping these things in the summer when you have a bit more time makes it even easier.  Let's take a look!


There's nothing worse then having a student walk into your classroom, excited that it's his/her birthday and....dun dun forgot and don't have anything ready.  YIKES!  Now you're left ransacking your classroom cupboards looking for something you can pass off as a birthday gift.  (hey- no judgement, I've been there!)

Wouldn't it be nice if you had a neat little box tucked up nicely in a cupboard filled with student birthday gifts just ready to go?  If you prep all of your student birthday gifts in one sitting while you prep for the rest of your back to school stuff, you'll be ready in a moment's notice (Even if it slipped your mind!  No one has to know! I won't tell!).

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:  
(click on any picture to learn more!)



You know the story - it's the last 5 minutes of the day and you're frantically trying to write several notes in your students' communication folders/agendas before they head for home.  One kid needs a reminder note about a parent/teacher conference tomorrow, another needs a reminder to bring back their library books, AND tomorrow's picture day - you'll want to remind all parents about that too, right!?

The solution to saving your time and sanity?  Prep some parent reminder/communication cards that you can easily staple to a page in an agenda or slip into a communication folder.  Your cards may include some generic text such as:

 "REMINDER:  We have a conference scheduled for (date) at (time)!  See you then!"

Simply add the date and time to the card, send it home with the student, and you're good to go!

Here are some events and parent notes you may want to consider creating ready-to-go reminder/communication cards for:

  • parent/teacher conferences
  • state test 
  • early dismissals 
  • school picture day 
  • fundraisers
  • field trips 
  • Report cards
  • Need School Supplies Notice
  • Open House
  • Project due-dates
  • book orders due
  • special class parties
  • school-specific specials days/weeks (ex. field day, science fair, awards ceremonies, family night, spirit week...)
  • return library books
  • missing homeworks/reading logs/parent signatures...etc
  • volunteers needed for _________

Create several copies of each so that you have enough on hand when you need them.  Be sure to replenish as needed.  They can be easily stored in a pocket chart ready to go at a moments notice!

(Grab a bunch of reminder notes inside my Classroom Management Survival Kit)

In addition, you might find it helpful to prep some cards to communicate positive behaviors or academic milestones.  Parents always love receiving a quick note stating that their child demonstrated good behavior or did well in a particular learning area.  This also helps build stronger relationships.  

Consider creating positive behavior/academic communication cards for:
  • going up a reading level
  • doing well on a test/assignment
  • completing their homework for an entire week/month
  • helping out a friend
  • showing respectful behavior
  • being a positive role model by _________


Fast-finisher activities are those activities that your students can complete if they finish a whole-class assignment before the rest of their classmates.  They should be activities that do not require additional instruction from you.  Many teachers like to prepare a set of drawers or activity tubs to organize their fast-finisher activities, making it easy for students to grab the activity materials and bring them back to their seats to complete.  I've also seen teachers create small bulletin board displays illustrating several activities students can complete.

These fast-finisher activities might include:

Choice Boards With a Variety of Activities to Complete - These take up very little space and could be swapped out often to keep them fresh.  Consider prepping monthly or seasonal choice boards to have on hand. (check out these choice boards for nonfiction and reading activity choice boards or grab a free set of choice board templates to create your own.)
choice board templates for fast finishers

Math and Literacy Games
Store these in file folders or small tubs for students to grab and take back to their seats.  You can swap these out throughout the year.  These games should review skills already learned so that students aren't trying to learn them on their own without support.

Here's a set of 5 FREE math center games that are ideal for grades 3-5 as they review basic skills such as place value, basic geometry, number sense, measuring, money.  They work great as fast-finisher activities for the beginning of the year!

"Roll & Write" Writing Prompts
My students LOVED the silly stories that they could create just by rolling the die 3 times to determine their characters, setting, and plot.  This fast-finisher takes up little space and is also easy to switch up throughout the year.  Try this FREE prompt sheet to see how they work with your students.

If they love them, then you can snag this pack of 5 "Roll & Write Prompts" with a variety of themes and ENDLESS story options!  Simply store each writing prompt sheet in a page protector for safe-keeping and place them all in a prong folder.  Make it more fun by including some great writing stationary for students to create their stories on.  Done!


If you wake up sick one morning, the last thing you'll want to worry about is putting sub plans together!  That's why prepping a tub (or binder) with ready-to-go materials for a last-minute sub is essential!  If your sub-tub is prepped, all you'll need to focus on is getting better!

Here's what you might consider adding to your sub tub or binder:

  • Your daily schedule
  • Your daily schedule
  • A list of helpful staff for the sub to reach out to
  • Behavior management plan (rules, consequences, etc.)
  • List of special needs for individual students
  • Detailed plans for the day 
  • Back-up plans for the sub (in case the lesson ends early)
  • Class lists (include pictures, if possible)
  • Schedules for students that get special services
  • A map of the classroom that includes where to find things
  • Student seating charts
  • Procedures and routines for your classroom as well as school procedures (arrival/dismissal, fire drill, assemblies, emergencies)
  • A feedback report that a sub can leave for the day
  • A list of problem behaviors or situations that may arise
  • A map of the school and details about key personnel


Listen - it's tempting to just dive in to the school year without making long-range plans.  After all, creating a year-long curriculum map is time-consuming and it's easy to say "I've been teaching for years, I know what I'll be teaching!"  But - even the most seasoned teachers can benefit from having a road map to refer to keep them on track and moving forward.  It's also a way to hold yourself accountable to your teaching schedule.

I did an entire post (with a VIDEO) all about getting into the mind-set of curriculum mapping and how to get started.  I encourage you to check that out for ultimate success in your curriculum mapping.

And - if you really want to lighten your load beyond curriculum planning, you can shed HOURS (and hours!) off your planning time with one of my "Design Your Own Bundle" resources that allow you to choose 3, 4, or even 5 full units that you can easily plug into your curriculum map.  This customized bundle gives you the freedom to pick exactly the units you need - across the curriculum - to mix and match and line up your curriculum with ease - and by doing so, you save 10-20% off the unit's original price.



With a little bit of effort up-front, you can have eye-catching anchor charts for your SMARTBoard/White board or PowerPoints that fit your classroom theme and style. You can use these same templates over and over and always have a kid-friendly display in moments.

Chances are you use your SMARTBoard/White board for the same types of displays and activities each day such as displaying morning work directions, homework tasks, and more.  Create templates for those displays that you do often by including a colorful background and some clip art.  Leave plenty of white space in the middle for you to add text to, or for writing directly on your board.  Simply duplicate your template (or erase information from a previous day) to reuse over and over!

I'll even give you a head start!  I've created several content-specific SMARTBoard/White Board/PowerPoint templates that you can plug in right away.

Check out these templates all ready to go:

Want them all?  Grab the bundleIt includes 134 background templates that make creating SMARTBoard, Whiteboard, or PowerPoint anchor charts a breeze!


Data, data, data!  You can't ignore it!  Collecting data has crept in to every nook and cranny of teaching.  Do yourself a favor and create a system for collecting and organizing student data NOW. And - it doesn't haven't to be complicated.  Not sure what to include in your student data binder? Here's a visual to help you get started!

(click picture below to enlarge to see more detail!):

The sheets that are shown above should be duplicated for each student in your classroom.  You can keep individual student data separated by dividers inside your binder so that all of your data is in one place.

See an entire post about creating a student data binder HERE - AND, snag the FREE data binder starter kit you see above!

There you have it, activities and systems that you can prep NOW to last you all year long!  Now, get to it! :)


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