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Preparing Your Classroom for a GREAT Fall!
By Dora Fowler, MBA

Now is the perfect time to begin preparing your classroom for your fall program and the new school year. The key to being well prepared in September is to make sure that you, your staff, and parents all have the same expectations about your program, rules, and policies.

Parents should be informed about your program’s rules and policies, especially the ones directly affecting their children (e.g., no profanity). Classroom, playground, and bathroom expectations, as well as field trip and bus rules, should all be clearly communicated. While rules and policies should be written in your parent handbook, it is also helpful to remind parents of them in your monthly newsletter. Some rules – for instance appropriate behavior for school-age children while getting on the bus – must be communicated to parents immediately. Other rules, such as those for field trips, may be communicated closer to the actual event.

Do not attempt to teach all of the rules to the children at one time. Initially, these rules are for the center’s staff and parents so that everyone knows what is expected of the children. After your fall program begins, you should present the rules and expectations gradually, during circle time. Bus rules should be presented and discussed with the school-age children during the first week of school. Field trip riles, on the other hand, can be presented to children a few weeks before each field trip.

Hold a pre-fall staff meeting early in August to ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength regarding your program’s rules, and parent expectations. It is not necessary for the director to create or present each agenda item. The person responsible for food preparation should create and present rotating menus. Each lead teacher should be responsible for presenting a summary of what it developmentally appropriate in his or her program. Each staff member working as a team can develop curriculum and lesson plans.

The following sample agenda, checklists, and rule lists will assist you in holding your pre-fall staff meeting, establishing a sense of teamwork, and promoting a positive atmosphere in your program. Use these lists as is, or adapt them to meet your program’s unique needs.

Fall Planning Meeting Agenda

1.       Introduce new staff, substitutes, and volunteers.


2.       Review licensing regulations pertaining to each program.


3.       Discuss enrollment projections.


4.       Hand out classroom rosters with children’s names. Indicate children who are moving up from other classrooms and instruct teachers to meet with one another to pass along information about the children and any assessment tools that were used the previous year.


5.       Request that staff prepare a list of supplies and equipment needed for each classroom so that items can be ordered in time for fall.


6.       Distribute rotating meal menus.


7.       Hand out a summary of things to be done during the first week of the program.


8.       Announce any special field trips and events for the fall program.


9.       Recruit committees for special events and programs (e.g., Parent’s Night).


10.    Review the dress code policy.


11.    Review playground supervision expectations.


12.    Summarize the infant, preschool, and school-age developmentally appropriate practices, including discipline methods, curriculum, and lesson plans.


13.    Review the program expectations for each new class of children.


Teacher To-Do List

Complete the following items before the first week of school.

  • Create emergency telephone number list.
  • Create emergency cards and consent for treatment forms and have them filed and ready to be taken by the head teacher any time he or she leaves the center with a group of children.
  • Create a birthday list of children and staff.
  • Create a substitute teach packet.
  • Create children’s nametags for field trips.
  • Create bus schedules for transporting children to and from public/private schools.

Classroom Readiness Checklist

Is your classroom ready for the children? Check off each item. If an item cannot be checked off, be sure that item is fixed before the children arrive for the first day of school.


·        Is classroom appropriately arranged?

·        Are activity areas clearly marked?

·        Are shelves labeled?

·        Is room clean and orderly?

·        Are cubbies labeled?

·        Have bulletin boards been updated?

·        Are new attendance forms posted?

·        Are new sign-in forms posted?

·        Are new meal forms posted?

·        Are lesson plans posted?

·        Is a daily classroom schedule posted?

·        Are the fall menus posted?

·        Are emergency procedures posted?

·        Are medication forms available?

·        Is the first aid kit stocked and in the room?

·        Are teachers’ names and schedules posted?

·        Are emergency cards and consent for treatment forms filed?

·        Are the correct number of cots in the room?

·        Are the correct number of tables/chairs in the room?

·        Are cleaning supplies/food/medicine stored properly?

·        Are exits clearly marked and free from debris?


Rules and Expectations for Children Field Trip Rules for Children

1.       Wear your nametag at all times. The front of the nametag should include the name of the program only. The back of the nametag (hidden from view) should include the name of the child and the program’s phone number.


2.       Stay with the group and adult you have been assigned to at all times.


3.       Follow the rules of the place being visited. Rules of the site should be reviewed with the children before the trip.


4.       Do not use the bathroom without a teacher’s approval.


5.       Do not fight or roughhouse.


6.       If you misbehave, you may be excluded from the next trip.


Bathroom Rules for Children

1.       Ask a teacher before going to use the bathroom.


2.       Do not play in the bathroom.


3.       Only _____ children in the bathroom at a time.


4.       Do not waste toilet paper, paper towels, or soap. Use one paper towel at a time.


5.       Flush the toilet after each use.


6.       Wash your hands with soap each time you go to the bathroom.


7.       Place all trash in the trashcan.


Classroom Rules for Children

1.       Always walk – never run in the classroom.


2.       Use indoor voices. No shouting, screaming, or yelling.


3.       Do not leave the room without the teacher’s permission.


4.       Clean up your activity area before beginning another activity. Put away all equipment and materials.


5.       Leave personal belongings in cubbies except at show and tell or sharing time.


6.       Do not go into other children’s cubbies.


7.       Only _____ children in _____ activity area at a time.


8.       Do not push or cut ahead when standing or walking in lines.


Bus & Van Rules for Children

1.       Walk in line, or with partners, to the bus and wait at its door. Never run to the bus.


2.       Enter the bus when the driver or teacher tells you.


3.       Walk, do not run, while entering and exiting the bus.


4.       Sit in your assigned seat.


5.       Keep hands, books, and personal belongings inside the bus at all times.


6.       Ask the teacher or driver before you open a window.


7.       Do not leave trash in the bus.


8.       Use an indoor voice while in the bus.


9.       Always stay in your seat. Do not stand up or roughhouse.


Playground Rules for Children

1.       Patiently wait your turn.


2.       Walk far behind the swings so you won’t be hit.


3.       Do not throw sand, rocks, or wood chips.


4.       Only one child at a time on ladders (e.g., slide climber)


5.       Do not leave the playground without a ladder.


6.       All teachers on the playground may give directions to the children – not just your teacher.


7.       Do not push or cut ahead when standing or walking in lines.


8.       Ride tricycles, and other wheel-toys, only in designated areas.


9.       Stay in your own designated play areas (i.e., older and younger children).


10.    Play ball (e.g., soccer) in designated areas only.


Substitute Teacher Packet Checklist

The following items should be kept in a large envelope marked “substitute teacher.” Tack the envelope to the upper right-hand corner of the staff bulletin board in each classroom so that it can easily be found by the substitute.


  • A blank nametag for the substitute to wear so that other staff can call him or her by name.

  • A list of all the children and a nametag for each child, to be pinned to the back of the child so that he or she will not take it off.

  • The names of the staff persons working in the classroom as well as those working in other parts of the center.

  • A daily schedule indicating any responsibilities particular to the regular staff person (e.g., feeding pets, setting up snack).

  • Three emergency lesson plans and the location of a box containing the materials needed for the lesson plans.

  • The location of general supplies.

  • A map indicating how the cots should be set out during naptime.

  • A list of the children’s allergies, including which foods they cannot eat.

  • Information on where the children’s emergency cards are kept.

Things to Do in Each Class During the First Week of School

  • Have a fire drill.

  • Have a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or other appropriate drills.

  • Walk around the neighborhood to familiarize the children with the program’s location.

  • Hold circle times to teach each child his or her full name and the full name of the program. Teach older children their address and telephone number.

Dora Fowler, MBA, is founder and executive director of the National Institute of Child Care Management. She is also the founder of the National Association of Child Care Professionals. This newsletter may be reproduced.