Category: Back to School

Finish Off the Summer Right!

Summer vacation is officially drawing to a close (if it hasn’t already), and back to school season is in full swing. But, if your kids are feeling down from returning to the rigid schedule of classes, homework, and clubs, help them make the most of the last bits of summer feeling. For that matter, parents should take advantage of it too!

While our recent blogs have focused on preparing teachers and parents for the beginning of the school year, this one focuses on making the most of the end of the summer. Even if your school district has already started up again, take some weekend time while the warm weather still lingers. Here’s some ideas to smooth the transition into the school year.

Plan a Get-Together

Summer barbecue get together

Whether in celebration of back to school or the end of summer, think about arranging a get-together for parents and kids alike. Those with a yard could choose to host a barbecue and pull out the water guns for the kids. As the school year continues, big gatherings start becoming more difficult to arrange for students and their parents.

Talking with fellow parents also gives you the chance to make sure everything is prepared for the new year. Kids, meanwhile, return to socializing with their school friends a little early. It never hurts to help them prepare for the sudden influx of social contact. 

Even if you’re not the hosting type, think about arranging something out in the neighborhood. Send the kids to the pool or even head to a restaurant. Just make sure you all get the chance to spend some quality time with people you enjoy while there’s more time to do it.

Have a Pajama Day

Pajama day in the summer

Take a day to simply relax! Don’t get dressed and don’t go out. Lounge about in the AC and take 24 hours to stop worrying about the work you need to do. Instead, think about ways you can arrange family time together. Watch some TV, put together a puzzle, or play some board games.

Once school starts, your kids won’t have as much time to simply hang out. Likely, neither will parents. An indulgent pajama day is the perfect way to say goodbye to summer without any kind of pressure.

At the same time, it offers a good way to convince your kids to spend some time with you, particularly if they’re older. It’s even possible to keep them away from screens for the day, if any parents get worried about the amount of time kids spend on computers during the school year. Take advantage of the summer heat to create some valuable personal time together.

Make a Photo Album

photo album of summer memories

One thing you can do on a pajama day is go through your memories of the summer with your kids. Pick out the best pictures from time spent together on adventures or vacations and print them out from your computer or phone. Make your own photo album from construction paper if your kids are the craftier type, or buy one that’s pre-made.

While you reminisce, talk with your kids about their favorite part the summer. As they arrange the photos, parents can learn the best parts of the summer honestly. As an added benefit, talking about the summer will also allow them to practice for the inevitable back to school icebreakers they’ll receive.

Hang Out Together with Games

Our Excavate! series is currently 30% off with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18 on our online store. Reintroduce your kids to education in a fun way, allowing them to discover all about six unique ancient cultures through archaeology. The games can be bought separately or in a bundle, but all of them are 30% off. Learn more about Excavate or go to the online store now to buy your license.

You Might Also Be Interested In:


First Day of School: Ideas & Activities

The first day of school can be scary…for both students and teachers! You meet new people, assess which classes might cause trouble or might be easy to manage, and get used to waking up early again. So, how can teachers make the first day of school clear and manageable for both themselves and their students? 

Learn Names

first day of school learning

For younger students, seating plans definitely help with learning names. Choose an order that works for name memorization at the beginning, then switch up the seats as problems arise or just as the year continues. Alphabetical by either first or last name can be a huge help when trying to remember. When calling attendance, make sure to look up and notice the student that answers after each name. 

For older students, you may choose to have a seating plan as suggested for younger students, but it can be good to let them have a bit more freedom within the classroom. If you choose to forgo seating plans, consider letting the students make their own nametags for the first few weeks of school.

Spend some time letting the students decorate their nametag. As long as the name is legible, their decorations may also help you learn about each student’s personality. Letting them personalize it also gives them a sense of ownership over it. They can leave it in the classroom at the end of the period and pick it up when they return. 

Whatever you teach, learning student names is essential. Student surveys have indicated that knowing an instructor knows them is very important. Additionally, studies have shown that knowing names increases community, accountability, and trust.

Get to Know Each Other

first day of school icebreakers

Break the ice! Not only can ice breakers help you learn names from the first day of school, it also lets members of your class get to know each other. Ice breakers can also help you recognize personality types among your students, allowing you to get a basic understanding of how to treat each of them to facilitate their learning.

For younger kids, it may help to get their nervous energy out through an ice breaker that involves physical activity. Here’s a list of ice breakers that involve some moving around on the part of the students.

For older students, particularly ones who have begun having many teachers, try to come up with something unique! They’ve probably spent all day playing classics like Two Truths and a Lie. Check out these two lists for some ideas that can serve as bouncing off points for discussion.

Lay Out the Rules

first day of school rules

It seems like this would be the most boring part, but it’s also important. Students who know expectations from the beginning won’t violate them accidentally. Making sure there’s a clear place where rules are laid out can be helpful for those who need reminders.

For older classrooms, particularly in discussion-heavy classrooms, have your students express their expectations. How do they want a discussion to be run in the classroom? If a student feels comfortable within rules, they may share their opinion more often. Consider taking some time to discuss a code of conduct for the classroom that works for everyone. If they need a jumping off point, here’s a list of basic rules.

Game Based Learning

While Excavate! might not be the ideal way to start the school year (although, why not?), now is the best time to buy the series. Using the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, get 30% off on all the Excavate! games in our online store. These can be used on Chromebooks or other school issued laptops to teach critical thinking, analysis skills, and facts about six unique ancient civilizations. Dig into the series today!


Back to School: Advice for Parents

Back to school season is a mess of excitement, nerves, and dread for kids. They want to see their friends again, but they’re less excited about getting up early or taking the bus. To help ease your kids into the school year, make sure everything gets prepared ahead of time- from supplies to attitude to schedule. Here’s our back to school advice for parents and guardians as the year begins!

Set a Schedule for Back to School

back to school schedule

Transitioning into an early morning wake-up time can be hard, especially for older kids. Encourage your children to start gradually shifting their sleep schedule as the school year gets closer. Getting a good alarm clock can be a place to start.

Sleep is very important for kids in all stages of development. Without enough sleep, students find it hard to focus on their classes and other social activities. Although school might not work with their preferred sleep schedule, trying to get enough hours is essential to encourage healthy development. Learn more about the importance of sleep for each age group here.

Get What Your Kids Need

back to school supplies

Teachers often let students know exactly what they need on the first day of school but grabbing some basics beforehand may save you a shopping trip later on! Double-check to see if there are school supplies left over from previous years first, then collect some basic necessities. Pencils, pens, notebooks, and folders are all guaranteed to be important.

However, that’s not everything! Backpacks, lunchboxes (if your student packs lunch), and clothing also fall under back to school supplies. All of this can get a little pricey, but there are plenty of resources to help you keep within a reasonable budget if it turns out you need more than you thought.

Double-Check Summer Work

back to school work

Did your student have summer homework? Nothing’s worse than heading to school and realizing that you’re already behind! Therefore, make sure your students double-check that they’ve completed any assignments they needed to do. 

That goes for parents too! Make sure forms are filled out and information is up to date. Meeting your students’ new teacher is also helpful. Make sure you know what they expect from their students and how to reach them if there are any issues. While it’s good to let kids be independent, they also need a solid support system.

One Last Hurrah!

back to school season

End the summer vacation with a bang! Take your kids out on an adventure of their choosing so that their last memory of summer is fond rather than bitter. 

If you want to make it educational to help them start enjoying learning again, that’s even better! There’s tons of ways to incorporate learning into everyday fun. Check out our blog on summer learning to get you started with ideas.

You Might Be Interested In:

  • This complete list from Edutopia with all the resources you could ever need.
  • Tips from the official blog of the United States Department of Education.
  • Our Excavate! games are 30% off until the end of September. Ease your students back into learning with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18 on our online store.

Back to School: Advice for Teachers

Back to school season is here in full force! There’s a lot that teachers need to get ready, even before students start entering the building. The checklist can include everything from setting up the classroom, to finalizing the year’s overall curriculum, to making sure that each student and their particular needs are accommodated. On this post, we’ve collected many resources that will help you start the school year right.

Preparing the Classroom

back to school classroom

Making sure that the classroom provides both a welcoming space and is optimized to help students learn is a difficult balancing act. Of course, some teachers deal with keeping their class on a cart and going from room to room. But if you happen to be lucky enough to get your own space, there are plenty of tips for making sure it’s the best space it can be.

Edutopia recently published an article on flexible classrooms. While research on their impact on learning remains scarce, what research exists shows promising results. Flexibility and ownership of the room are important tools to help academic progress, right up there with basics like air quality and temperature. 

If you can’t change the space itself, you can at least give the room a bit of decoration. Not only does it make the room more interesting for students, it makes the room a more welcoming environment for you too! You might consider posters with good inspirational quotes or famous historical figures from your subject. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate your classroom with some DIY tips to make the room all your own. 

Getting Ready for Students

students back to school

The best offense is a good defense. To put that another way, the best way to be prepared later down the line is to be ready to go from the start. Know what students you have coming in and prepare for any special accommodations they require. Know your general classroom policies ahead of time too and remember to communicate these rules to the students. How will you deal with absences, late work, or snow days? Have answers to these questions before they come up!

These may seem basic, particularly if you’ve taught before, but take some time to reflect on how your policies worked last year. If they seemed to work, great! However, if they could improve, give some thought on how to change them up to be best for you and the students. Taking the time to reflect on the previous year during the summer can be incredibly useful.

The First Day Back to School

back to school advice for teachers

The first day is a teacher’s chance to make a good first impression and also set students on the right path towards collaboration and respect. Icebreakers can be a great way to, well, break the ice! Depending on the age, students might respond differently to this strategy, but it’s all a matter of offering an icebreaker that fits their maturity level. Check out Icebreaker Ideas to find one that’s right for you.

If you have trouble learning names, making nametags can be an easy, relaxing activity for the first day back to school. Try to keep quizzing yourself to get the names down pat. No matter the age and no matter the size of the class, students appreciate it when instructors know their name.

Think About GBL

Summer Gaming List 7: Dig-It! Games

If you’ve yet to jump on the game-based learning train, there’s no better time to find out more about it than back to school time! We have a whole host of game-based learning products. Consider switching up your lesson plans to incorporate active learning and foster engagement in students.

Social studies teachers, take a look at our Excavate series and Roman Town 2. Science teachers, head over to the ExoTrex series. Even Spanish teachers can hop on board with our Spanish translation of Excavate! MesoAmerica.

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Here’s a very thorough checklist that goes over even more ways to be prepared for the school year and save yourself time down the line.