Back to school: Our top tips for An Effective Star(t) to the year

By Denisha Polin

Summer is officially over and it’s time to get back into the swing of things. After a 6-week long break teachers and students across the UK begin making their way back inside the classroom, ready to tackle the new school year.

Whether making the transition from primary to secondary school, starting a new class or meeting a new set of pupils, September marks a new beginning for all.

One thing to keep in mind is that everyone – students and teachers – is feeling a little rusty after having some time off, so it’s important to ease back into things gently.

Here are our top tips to get your children onside from the outset!


#1:  Prepare your learning space

A clear, organised learning space makes all the difference when stepping back inside the classroom for the first time. Simple tasks such as labelling your stationary and organising the layout of your classrooms – deciding whether to group tables and chairs together so that students are facing their peers (this is excellent for cooperative learning) or perhaps you’d like students to sit facing the front of the classroom – can go a long way.

You may also like to reset your shelves, introduce colour coding of files containing worksheets for different level students and setup a rewarding system for student achievement.


#2:  PLANNING is essential

If you’ve heard the saying fail to prepare, prepare to fail then you’ll know that planning ahead is crucial, particularly when beginning a new term. Having a structure for a lesson will help things run efficiently, despite the September slide kicking in. Whether that’s timing your PowerPoint slides, exercising a whole-class reading activity or printing out your worksheets so that they’re ready to hand out.

Of course, there are a lot of things to consider when heading back inside the classroom, so if you are a user of Renaissance solutions, do checkout our Back to school-set-up guide to get ahead in setting up your accounts for the new school year.

#3:  Break the back-to-school ice

Some of your students may be familiar with each other, or they might be meeting for the first time. The first day back is often an opportunity for many teachers to get to know their classes for the very first time, so what better way to do that than with an activity or game everyone can get involved in.

Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Guess what? /Word association – pick a theme, i.e., Disney movies, music, Science or London Victorian culture (whatever you fancy), then pick a topic such as a film name (i.e. Harry Potter), you should then select a student to stand up with this selected name (written on paper), however they do not know what it is. The rest of the class must then give them clues to help them guess the word (in this case the film title).
  • Introduce yourself – ask students to go around state their names and one fun thing they did during the summer.
  • The big question – this is a fun and educational one to engage your whole class and is sure to challenge your students reading and comprehension abilities. First, have students read a short extract from a book. You can print these out onto pieces of paper and hand them out along with some highlighters for outlining key points. (You may want to give them 10-15 minutes to complete this).
  • Then split your class into two teams and give them names. Here’s where the fun begins. Create 10 questions based on themes, setting or characters from the extract your children have just read. Have these ready to pop up on your interactive whiteboard (this can be done on PowerPoint).
  • Once the question flashes up on the board the first team to raise their hand will have priority in answering, if they cannot guess the correct answer, then the chance goes to the opposing team. The team with the highest score wins.
  • 2 truths and 1 lie – split your students into groups and get them to tell two truths and one lie about themselves – their peers must guess which statement is a lie.

#4:  Differentiation – meet the needs of all students with ease

A major task on the checklist of things to-do when starting the new year is trying to determine the level each student is working at. Like many schools, you may begin with standardised tests or perhaps you determine student levels yourself.

We know a lesson is never one size-fits all – students are working at different levels, across various abilities, that’s why Star Assessments is the perfect tool to make the levelling process a little easier.

Instant results and detailed reports help you understand where your children are, instantly identify learning gaps and easily follow the progress of groups and individuals to ensure that they are on track to meet expected standards in the learning pathway, so why not start the term off with Star, perhaps not the first day back, but maybe some weeks into the first term.


#5:  Communicating with parents

The learning journey often continues beyond the school gates that’s why it’s so important to get parents involved in what their children are working on. The more they understand about what their children are learning, the better equipped they are to provide support.

Teacher and School Improvement Leader, Catherine Magee tells us in her Back-to-School Cheat Sheet how you can help get parents involved with their children’s work and the best way to do this.

The first day back to school can be overwhelming for everyone, but these tips along with prior knowledge and practice are sure to support you in operating the classroom environment all year long.



Find out more about how Renaissance solutions can support your school initiatives this year.

Already a customer and need support setting up your school accounts for the year? Check out our Back-to-school set-up checklist

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