Are you about to start the school year, but aren’t sure where to start? In this article, I'm detailing five must-do’s for back to school.

1. Print class lists and schedule

Class lists are great to have for attendance, creating seating charts, figuring out small groups, and more! I love to have class lists both in paper form (for my class list and fire drill binders) and in Excel so I can easily copy and paste them into programs and apps.

A schedule is obviously great to have to keep yourself on track of what you're doing when each day, but it can also be helpful for keeping track of which lesson classes are on, sharing with other teachers, and more.

2. Figure out your classroom management system and routines

Sitting down to think about how you'll run your classroom, how you'll handle behavior issues, if and how you'll reward students, etc., is so important.

In the past, I've used star student for individual rewards and class points for whole class rewards, but this year, I'm going to try to give rewards more randomly, so students aren't expecting them. Additionally, my school is doing a schoolwide PBIS system, so I'm going to align a lot of my classroom management with that.

Part of our PBIS system includes really thinking through and teaching your routines, so I am going to try to be more intentional with teaching my routines. I was also inspired by a blog post by David Row from Make Moments Matter about splitting your class up into four instrument families for grouping and management.

I'm going to try it this year, giving one family the opportunity to sit in flexible seats, another family the chance to have class jobs, and then switching each month.

Thinking through if you'll have seating charts, and for which grade levels, is important before the first day of class. I create my seating charts in Powerteacher Pro, but if your school district doesn't use that, you could use the Smart Seat App.

3. Writing engaging lessons

Making sure you have lessons and materials ready to go for the first day is definitely a must-do! I like to split my first day lessons into three sections:

"Getting to know you": This section can include you introducing yourself and some name games so you can get to know your students and their names.

Routines: In this part of the lesson, you can discuss your routines, rules, and expectations so that students know what to expect in your class. During this part of the lesson, I go down my class lists to make sure I have the names of everyone in the class and ask any students new to the school which school they went to last.

Music-making and review: This can include known songs and concepts. For example, if my second graders know ta, ti-ti, and rest from first grade, I might just review ta and ti-ti in the first lesson with a game like "Bee Bee," and then in the second lesson, I'll review rest.

4. Setting up your room

Whether you have a small or big room, thinking through where you will put your instruments, your materials, your chairs, etc., is beneficial for the start of the year.

In the past, I've drawn up a diagram of what I wanted my room to look like so I can use it when setting up the room. You might even think of your room in sections (technology section, instrument section, materials section, etc.).

As you are setting up your room, hook up your technology — your SMART board or interactive board, any iPads, etc. Try not to wait until the day before school starts in case anything isn't working the way you think it's supposed to.

5. Posting anything important

Think about what you refer to often and would be helpful for students to see posted. This might be your rules, anchor charts, word walls, etc. You don't need to necessarily have a lot of decor, nor do you necessarily need a theme, but having important documents up and easy to access is a must-do.

There are other tasks that could be completed during back-to-school season, but in my experience, many of the other tasks I’ve done are just “nice to do.” Prioritizing what has to be done versus what could be done is really helpful to be more productive and decrease your stress.