Returning To School: Tips For a Teacher

It’s that time of the year, students shopping for back to school supplies, and teachers preparing for the new year. Our Math Marketing Specialist and former high school math teacher, Amy Banko, sat down and gave us a list of tips for teachers starting the new school year.

 As you return to school, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Set goals for yourself.
    1. Maybe your goal is to make sure you write down a reflection at the end of every day. What went well? What needs changed? How can you improve your lesson for the next time you teach it?
  2. Know the assessments and standards.
    1. In this data-driven world we live in, it’s important to know what you are supposed to teach, and how students will be assessed. Look over the available sample questions, and plan to use the sample questions or model questions after them so students have the practice they need.
  3. Set the back to school tone and expectations, and establish a routine.
    1. Students need this from the first day. Sometimes it takes a few weeks to get everyone on the same page, but teaching students how to act and when to do certain tasks in your classroom will help later in the year.
  4. Determine if you plan to use categories with weighting in your gradebook.
    1. Setting up your gradebook prior to the first day will help you explain to students how they will be graded in your class. If you can plan ahead, enter assignments into the gradebook the day before or that morning prior to the start of the day. This will cut down on the amount of time you’ll spend entering grades since the assignments are already there.
  5. Print rosters and assign books to students to keep track of them.
    1. If your district ordered new books, take the time to number the entire set consecutively instead of having teachers number their own. The following year, the books may not necessarily be with the same teacher, so initials and numbers are more of a hassle than just consecutive numbers.
  6. Design a seating chart. (Also – see video)
    1. Print blank ones to write down where students sit (or assign seating ahead of time). Having the seating chart available helps you learn student names. If you put it in a sheet protector, you can take attendance and complete your homework check all at the same time using a dry-erase marker. Then you can worry about entering the grades at the end of the day. I found this technique much easier than using a class roster spreadsheet. Those are typically arranged by last name, so I would waste time searching for students’ last names while still trying to learn their first names! Using the seating chart is much easier since you are checking students in that order.

What are some tips you’d like to share with teachers? Let us know in the comments section.

New School Year = School Teacher Hacks

Here’s a wonderful article from Buzzfeed that offers some unique DIY and ‘hacks’ for teachers in the classroom. This article was too good not to post and share with our wonderful teachers. Here are 37 teacher hacks you can use as you prepare for the new school year.

Here are some of our favorite ‘Teacher Hacks’:

Make inexpensive inspirational quotation posters with

Used colored dots to make groups easy“Put a different colored dot on each desk in a group. When you need to have a student from each table do something, you can simply ask for all the green dots to bring you the papers from their group.”

Keep your markers lasting as long as possible.

What are some teacher hacks you use in the classroom? Be sure to tell us in the comments section, we’d love to hear them.

Ending The Year On A Strong Note

As the end of the school year approaches, students — and teachers — usually feel a range of emotions: feeling sad about saying goodbye to the excitement about the transition to a new grade. Teachers, don’t let your hard work fade as the school year closes and summer begins. Take and use these tips to help you reflect and plan for the new school year.


  • Organize and laminate all resources, handouts, etc. by subject area or topic into large 3 ring binders with tab dividers by concepts and/or skills taught. That way, you can reuse materials and forgo those manila folders in your filing cabinet. If you’re a teacher that uses some of the same units and lesson plans each year, file those into your binder as well.


Focus on your strengths

  • We all want to make up for our weaknesses, but there’s little point in trying to go completely against your grain. The best way to learn about yourself is to focus on your strengths. Your teaching is shaped by your strengths. No matter how strong or struggling a teacher might be, the best way to set the tone for next year is to identify key areas of their teaching. This might include activities that you’ve done in your class that’s got your class excited. If you have observations from other teachers on how you teach, ask for those and find out. Once recognized, they can improve and build on the areas that need work.


Identify focus areas 

  • The summer is a great time for professional development and planning to either utilize it for the coming school year or not. If you know where you want to be as a teacher start planning on your focus areas and take ownership of them. Locate professional development for your school or focus on a topic/lesson plan you want to improve on. Whatever it may be, by identifying the area of focus, you are starting to better yourself as an educator.


Prepare for the Fall

  • Once you’ve organized your materials, focused on your strengths, and identified your focus areas, it’s time to start planning for the new school year. It’s amazing how doing just a few preparation tasks for the school year can save time and stress. For example, cut out and laminate nametags, desk tags, come up with a seating chart, buy cheap pens/pencils and maybe come up with some ideas for classroom decorations. That way it will save you time, and you have a game plan of what you’re doing in the new school year. Most importantly, make sure that you enjoy your summer vacation too – you’ve earned it!


How do you best prepare for the new school year? Let us know in the comment section!

Big Ideas Learning Debuts NEW Websites!

Big Ideas Learning is excited to announce the debut of our website,, and the redesign of

Currently, when a visitor goes to he or she is redirected to the Big Ideas Math companion website, Beginning on Saturday, April 5th, will now feature information about the Big Ideas Math program, Big Ideas Learning Professional Development, and the Big Ideas Math Blog.

To coincide with this release we have also updated the Big Ideas Math companion website. The new website will feature a sleeker design, but will include the same functionality and familiarity of the current website to allow teachers and students continued ease and access.

To access all of your Big Ideas Math program resources, choose your role from the homepage OR select the “Teachers” or “Students” tab.

From the teacher view, once you are logged in, you will have full access to the Dynamic Classroom and all of the other resources on the website in the same area you have become accustomed to.

Students can login to access the Dynamic Student Edition or can view the Easy Access Home Edition without a username and password.

Thank you for being a Big Ideas Math program user and we look forward to continuing to provide you with the latest technological resources to enhance your 21st century classroom experience.



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As always, the Big Ideas Learning technical support team is here to assist you if you need any additional guidance.You can contact technical support from 8:00am to 5:00pm EST Monday through Friday by calling (877) 552-7766.

You can also e-mail technical support 24 hours a day by visiting A member of our support team will reply within 24 hours.

Big Ideas Learning Leadership Conference & Recap

Two weeks ago, Big Ideas Learning met with administrators in Michigan for the Big Ideas Math Symposium. Teachers and Administrators had the opportunity to meet and talk with authors Dr. Ron Larson and Dr. Laurie Boswell as well as meet and talk with Denise McDowell, Barb Webber and users of the Big Ideas Math program.

Recently, Cherie Maher, a math teacher from the Troy School District shared with us her wonderful story and picture:

“I enjoyed and appreciated everything I learned today at the Big Ideas Conference.  Thanks for your hard work to help us implement this new book.

“I wanted to share a funny story… Tonight, I showed my new Big Ideas T-shirt to my boys that are in 3rd grade and 10th grade.  Immediately, they both shouted out their answers to how many 1/2’s are in 1/4.  The 10th grader shouted out ‘2’ and the 3rd grader shouted out ‘that’s easy, 1/2!’  My 10th grader gave a condescending smile, and my 3rd grader gave a sheepish grin.  It was great to see their reactions when they found out that the younger brother was right!”

 “I have another son in 8th grade who was not around at the time, but later I asked him.  His response was ‘2, no 8!!!’ “

                                                          (Cherie Maher with her sons)

Thanks for the great story and even better picture, Cherie! Do you have a story about the Big Ideas Math program? Let us know in the comments below!