Thursday, August 9, 2018

Six Ways to Spice Up Back-to-School Inservice 

The beginning of the school year is fast approaching and teachers will be walking in the front door for their first back-to-school inservice. This can be one of the most important and productive professional development opportunities of the school year. But on the other hand, it can also be one of the most dreaded for teachers, who want time to work in their classrooms. So how can you spice up your inservice and ensure it isn’t a wasted meeting? Find some suggestions below.

1 - Have a Plan and Invite Your Staff to Share in It


The first “must” for a successful inservice meeting is to have a plan and an agenda in place. Agendas make it easier to stay on track and follow up with important items. When creating your agenda, remember that you want to make effective use of everyone’s time. Be sure to include a section for action items so that everyone can have an overview of what needs to be done.

It is so easy to create your agenda electronically, for example with Google Docs. There are many agenda templates that exist as well. Look at this sample agenda. Once thing you will notice is that it has a place to take collaborative notes. There’s no need to have notes or minutes being taken separately when they can be done on the agenda itself. If you share the agenda with your secretary or even some of your staff members, they can collaboratively take minutes.

Another thing you can do is share or email the agenda to all staff members in advance of the meeting. Invite them to contribute topics or ideas that they think should be added to the agenda. This will show that you value their thoughts and they will be more invested in your time together.

2 - Don’t Do All the Talking

As the principal, you don’t have to do all the talking at the inservice. Allow your staff members to shine by having them lead a part of the meeting. Giving your staff that opportunity will help develop your school leaders as well as build staff morale. You could assign teachers roles, topics, or updates that they will, in turn, share with the entire group. Your teachers will feel empowered by taking a more active part in the inservice. Remember, teachers love to teach, so utilize that when planning your inservice.

3 - Break the Ice

The start of a new school year can be nerve-wracking, not just for students, but for teachers, too. Why not incorporate a fun, getting-to-know you activity? Giving your teachers time to share special facts about themselves or share fun things they did this summer will help ease those nerves. This is also the perfect time to introduce and recognize any staff members who are new and learn a little more about them.

Icebreakers help you build relationships with your staff. Try to use icebreakers that your staff can use with students in the classroom so they can build relationships with their students, too. It never hurts to model what you want to see in the classroom. You can find a few icebreaker activities at Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School and Even More Classroom Icebreakers for Back to School. The great thing about those icebreakers is that they incorporate technology. The ISTE Standards for Administrators say that you should promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools (ISTE Standard 3c). Digital icebreakers will help you do that.

Click HERE to see a Two Truths and a Lie Icebreaker.
The password is Icebreaker.

4 - Try Something Different

There are so many things you need to cover at the beginning of the year inservice, such as policies and procedures. These aren’t necessarily the most exciting topics to discuss; but nevertheless, they must be covered. Therefore, why not incorporate a little fun into reviewing these less-than exciting topics by using a little variety? Instead of showing a PowerPoint, have the teachers complete a scavenger hunt or some type of game. Have them compete in a smack down or rotate around the room to have quick conversations about specific topics. You can find these ideas and more at Innovative Professional Development Models.

back-to-school inservice
Example of a speed dating professional development activity

5 - Incorporate the Three F’s

Do your best to incorporate the three F’s:
  • Food. Food can have a tremendous impact on the meeting's productivity and outcome. I always liked the saying, “To Meet Better, Eat Better.” You will especially want to provide a snack for your teachers to avoid afternoon slowdowns.
  • Freebies. It’s always a good idea to give your staff something to welcome them back. It could be something like a pen, water bottle, or coffee mug that has the school logo on it. If there aren’t any discretionary funds available for this, then you could make something for them. It’s the thought that counts.
  • Feedback. Feedback is important and we all know it. As mentioned in #1, getting input from your staff will show you value their thoughts and opinions. Make sure you provide opportunities for your staff to speak up during the inservice.

6 – Start with the End and End with the Positive

At the beginning of your inservice, make the goal or objective for coming together very clear. Ensuring that your staff knows what the expected outcomes are will make for a more efficient inservice.

Lastly and most importantly, make sure you end each day on a positive note. Let your staff know how much you appreciate them. Make these days about them and be visible and ready to help them when needed.

Have a Great Inservice

Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas on how to spice up your inservice and get off to a great start. It’s a busy time of the year, so make the first days with your staff count as much as possible.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Display Classroom Expectation Posters This School Year

Having strong classroom expectations at the beginning of the school year is so very important. So why not display them with eye-catching posters? If students forget an expectation or if you need to conduct a mini-lesson targeted toward the expectations that need attention, you can just point to the posters.

Setting Classroom Expectations

I can tell you from experience that your year will be less stressful if students know what your expectations are from day one. One of the obvious expectations you might have is how your students should enter/leave the classroom. 

Remember that your classroom expectations are what you want to happen in the room. So they should be written in a positive tone and not filled with lots of "do nots." Think about what a learning environment looks like on the best possible day and write the expectations to help everyone achieve that.

After you have come up with your expectations, then involve your students. Ask them to brainstorm ideas for their own classroom expectations. This will allow your students to take ownership over their environment and will show them you value their thoughts. Just like you, I’m sure your students have expectations as well. Together you and your students can collaborate on all classroom expectations.  It’s possible that your students will come up with the same expectations you did. Once all classroom expectations are in place, make sure you hold your students accountable to them.

Creating Classroom Expectation Posters in Google Slides

Click HERE to download
the How-To Guide.

It’s important to come up with some sort of visual display for your classroom expectations. This is where Google Slides comes in handy. It is so very easy to create classroom expectation posters with Google Slides. Refer to this Make Posters in Google Slides How-To Guide to see how simple it really is. The guide contains three steps: 1) Set Up Your Poster; 2) Design Your Poster; and 3) Print, Share, or Embed Your Poster. Google Slides will allow you to make your posters artistic and professional. Even your students can join in on creating the posters.

Once your posters are created, you have the option of printing them, sharing them with parents or via Google Classroom, or embedding them on your Google Site. 

If you want to see some sample PDF versions of posters I created, click on the links below:
  • Be Kind and Respectful to Others – PDF link
  • Listen While Others Are Speaking – PDF link
  • Raise Your Hand to Speak – PDF link

Another idea is to create a pledge that your students will sign acknowledging that they will follow all classroom expectations. Check out the pledge I created below in Google Drawings.


It’s Powerful

It’s powerful to be able to refer to a visual representation of the classroom expectations and remind students they were involved in the creation of them as well. What do you do when it comes to classroom expectations? What benefits do see for visually displaying them in the classroom and having students contribute their expectations? Share in the comments below.