The Ultimate Back to School Teacher Checklist 2020

Can you believe that we are headed back to school in just a matter of days? This year is so different for most of us. It was time to begin organizing all of the things that I might need to do. I just started writing and came up with the ultimate back to school teacher checklist!

Some of us may already be back in the classroom. We will return for Pre-Planning today. It dawned on me that I had better get started with making decisions about what I would share with parents and on how I would kick-off my year.

My actions were stalled with all of the back and forth on how we would, when we would, and if we would begin the year. I will teach face-to-face 5 days a week. There’s not much that I can do about it, so I need to embrace it, pray, and make it happen.

Essentially, I grabbed a notebook and just began writing.

Here’s my Brain Dump of all the things:

An image of a tall, smiling, African American teacher wearing a lanyard and standing outside of a school building.  A blog post image for "The Ultimate Back to School Teacher Checklist" on the blog.

The Ultimate Back to School Teacher Checklist

Welcome Letter or Video

  • What information do you need to share for the beginning of the year?
    • School hours
    • Your lunchtime
    • Class schedule
    • Your contact information and preferred method for contact
    • What time can students enter the classroom?
    • Bringing bottles of water. Remind students to label them.
    • Wearing a mask. Maybe suggest bringing a spare.
    • Behavior expectations and communication
    • Class reward system- Do you DoJo, Remind app, sticker charts, message home daily, daily folders?
  • How will you share this information?
    • Virtually
      • What type of schedule for parents to “meet with you” will you create?
      • What time slots will you be/make available?
    • Brick and Mortar/In-Person
      • How will you create a schedule that supports being socially distant?
      • Create packets of paperwork that parents “grab and go”?

School Supplies

  • Would you like the items to come in pre-labeled?
  • pencil boxes or pouches to store individual items in
  • Wishlist items- Don’t be afraid to ask for special goodies. You will have a few families that may be able to contribute items that you may need. This year, we put Dry Erase Markers on our Wishlist to respect budgets that families may now be experiencing. They used to be a part of our regular requests.

Academic Platforms

  • What academic platform (if applicable) will you use? How will students and parents access it? How often will you post updates, assignments, and/or homework? Also, think of making a schedule that you will follow for updating this information.
    • Schoology
    • Canvas
    • Blackboard
    • Google Classroom
    • Class website
  • Passwords
    • How will you communicate passwords to students and parents?
    • Do you have a sheet or Google Doc that you will use?
    • Cards for each student?
      • Some platforms have ID cards for each student that you can print out. Laminate them for durability.

Parent Communication

  • Create an email (group) list
  • This takes some time on the front-end but will make life so much easier and efficient for you when you need to send out information to families.
    • in Gmail
    • within the LMS (Learning Management System) platform that you’re using (like Schoology)
    • Dojo
    • Remind app

Procedures for Entering the Classroom

An image of 4 smiling students standing in line inside of a classroom.
  • Think of how students will enter your classroom.
    • Procedures for hanging up backpacks
    • Lunch box locations
    • Placing water bottle(s) on their desk or table
    • How will students make their lunch choice in a way that requires as little contact and contact sharing as possible?
    • Morning work on the table?
      • Center activities
      • Individual resources- manipulatives in pencil boxes or storage bags
      • Where will students place completed work? Work that is not finished yet?
        • Will they have a paper folder in their cubbies that they will use? Actually, plastic folders might be great this year because you can spray/wipe them down.
      • Note: Using journals like Composition Notebooks or spiral notebooks may be a great option for keeping work organized and personalized.

Beginning of the Year Paperwork

This is an area that we still haven’t figured out yet. Normally, parents come in for Meet the Teacher. I always ask them to sit down and complete the paperwork and turn it in before leaving. This way I can sort the paperwork and record pertinent information over the weekend. This year, we are doing a Virtual Meet the Teacher. So far, my school hasn’t decided how they will disseminate all of the important forms that we need for student information.

Honestly, the most pertinent information that I need is:

  • Transportation on the first day of school. A must know! Right?
  • Transportation for the first week of school.
    • I have a blog post on creating a more stress-free and seamless dismissal that includes a way to document student transportation on a clipboard form that I created. You can read it here.
  • Any pickup/interaction restrictions?
  • Any food or health allergies?
  • Health concerns like asthma
  • Emergency contacts
  • Special academic needs like accommodations

Behavior Expectations and Social Distancing

An image of a stuffed toy (a cat) holding a measuring tape with his paw as he measures the carpet.
  • We are going to have to prepare ourselves for this. A lot has happened since last school year. Our students have been out of the classroom for so many months. Some of them are being kept abreast about everything that is going on with COVID-19. Other students may not have families that are forthcoming or comfortable with open communication. It will be important to have conversations (age-appropriate and honest) before we can really dive into anything else.

Let’s Talk About COVID-19

We had to add this to the ultimate teacher back to school checklist. Our kids will have a lot on their hearts and minds.

  • What is COVID-19?
    • How is it transmitted?
    • How can we try to keep ourselves safe(r) from COVID-19?
      • Handwashing frequently
      • Keeping our faces (noses and mouths) covered
      • Sanitizing our hands after touching objects
      • Covering our mouths and noses when we sneeze (Elbows are our friends!)
    • How and why we practice social distancing in our classroom.
    • Remember to be flexible with your time and timing. Students may have a lot of questions, concerns, and/or fears.
      • Think of allowing time for students to draw and/or write about their feelings.
  • Wearing Masks
    • Make sure you know what your school policies for wearing masks or face coverings.
    • Will you allow for masks breaks?
      • When will students be allowed to remove their masks?
      • Where will they be allowed to remove their masks?

Procedures for Limiting Sharing

  • Materials like school supplies (pencils, scissors, or glue) and procedures for replacing them or storing them.
    • This will be really crucial for these current times.
    • Who will sharpen students’ pencils?
    • Where will students store their supplies?
      • Pencil boxes kept on desks or tables?
  • Water bottles
    • At our school, students will not be able to refill their bottles at the water fountain or drink out of the water fountain.
    • I think that I will suggest students bringing in 2 bottles of water a day. This is actually not terribly environmentally respectful so it gives me reservations. Or, I will suggest that parents send in a large(r), refillable water bottle.

Keeping it Clean

An image of a young girl wearing a mask and squeezing hand sanitizer into her hand.
  • Tissue stations throughout the classroom
    • Remember to have hand sanitizer near any tissue stations
  • sanitizing stations throughout the classroom
  • Who will clean? What are students allowed to clean?
  • Will you allow students to sharpen pencils with the class sharpener?
  • I’m thinking of having students leave their pencil boxes on their tables at the end of the day. Then, I will put on gloves and sharpen each student’s pencils, one student at a time; being sure to return them directly to the case. I’ll be sure to rub my gloves down with hand sanitizer between each set.

Eating in the Classroom

  • Will students have designated eating spaces?
    • Only allowed to eat in their assigned seats?
  • Procedures for throwing away trays and trash
  • Who will clean the eating spaces?
    • Will students be given wipes?
    • Wet paper towels?
    • Wash/sanitize hands after cleaning
  • Wash hands with soap and water after eating.

Label Everything!

  • Name tags- for desks and for students to wear
  • Desks or tables for seating
  • Cubbies
  • Materials like journals, notebooks, pencil boxes, folders, homework folders, daily folders, parent communication folders
  • Student workbooks
  • Standing positions for distancing (if applicable)
  • Remember to buy Avery labels.
    • You may want to consider buying different sizes and multi-purpose stickers.
  • Lunch choice(s)
  • Backpack area
  • Lunchbox storage area (if applicable)

Classroom Library

Some school systems are now allowing teachers to have classroom libraries this year. If you are like me, books are a lifeline! We have to find some way to get books in our sweet students’ hands. If you are allowed to have a classroom library, how will you monitor and maintain it to help reduce germ spreading?

  • “Clean Me” Basket for books
    • Students can place books that they have touched here and you can wipe or spray them down.
  • Sanitize your hands before taking a book from the shelf.
  • Sanitize hands before returning a book to the shelf.
  • Only allowing students to read books that are stored in their cubbies or backpacks (like books from home or from the library)

School Library Check-Out

If your school will allow students to check books out of the library, what procedures will you put in place?

  • Will you allow students to hold on to their own library cards?
    • I have been keeping a small recipe card box with all of the cards in it. I won’t be able to do that this year.
    • I’m thinking that I might create library pocket cards for each student and tape them to the back of one of our doors. Then, I’ll talk to students about only touching their own cards.
    • A hanging pocket chart with students’ names labeled on it would also work well.

Activities for Building Class Community

As you know, we are limited in these activities this year. We won’t be Scooting or Finding Somebody Who for a minute. So, let’s get creative!

  • Songs for how to pronounce names correctly
  • All About Me/Who Am I? posters or activities
    • This would be great to allow students to create digitally (at home or in class depending on the age of students) and then you could share them on the Promethean board or large board.
  • “What I like to do” drawings
  • Stand up if you like to _______________
  • A Word Search with all of your students’ names featured
  • Would you rather _______ activities (aloud as an entire class)

Books for the Beginning of the School Year

There are way too many fabulous books for me to list on the ultimate back to school teacher checklist here, so I will create a list and share it next week. I’ll list a few important categories below.

  • Any books that talk about the beauty and importance of names and how to pronounce them correctly.
  • Sharing
  • Being kind and using kind words
  • Being a good friend and how to make friends
  • Safety
  • Building community
  • Tattling (how not to do this)
  • Raising your hand to share information
  • Being a good listener
  • Rules and why they are important
  • Social-Emotional and feelings
  • Anti-Racist
  • Social Justice

Bonus Teacher Tips

Since we will have to wear our masks while we teach, you may be concerned about students being able to hear you. We have microphones that are connected to speakers in our ceilings. If your school does not have microphones, you can purchase a wireless microphone. Here’s one that I found on Amazon that might be helpful.

An image of a black, hands-free microphone that can be worn over the ear.
You can click on the photo to be taken to this headset. This is my Amazon Affiliate link.

Here is another microphone option that you may like. Check for compatibility for how you could use it. I noted that this one does not work with MacBooks, but it will work with desktops and iPads.

Image of a wireless headphone set that attaches over the ear.  It shows all of the components needed for the wireless set to work.  Over the ear microphone, power box that attaches to your clothing and the plugs that you will need.  The bus is a chrome gray with black wires.
You can click on the photo to view the product. I am using my Amazon Affiliate link.

Here are a few of my resources that you can use to kick off the school year. You can add these to your ultimate back to school teacher checklist. I hope that you find something that’s super helpful!

Behavior Modification Visual Cue Cards

Behavior Modification Visual Cue Cards Set 2

Dismissal Back Pack Tags

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Resources:

Uppercase Handwriting Practice

Lowercase Handwriting Practice

Sentence Writing Practice

Long Vowel Patterns

Plus many more resources that you can check out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Phew! Do we do all these things?? Yes, we do (and then some)!


Can you think of anything else to add to our ultimate back to school teacher checklist?

Leave a comment below if you have any great ideas that we should add to our list.

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Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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