Planning your semester, even at the most basic level, helps reduce stress for you and your students. This material is offered as my thoughts on actually "getting started" before beginning the school year.
1. Get teaching assignments (from the principal).
2. Survey your room(s) and available equipment. If you do not have daily access during the planning process, draw yourself a diagram or take a quick picture.
3. Obtain the school calendar for the year as soon as possible. You may need to consult the school secretary or possibly contact the superintendent's office.
4. Using that same calendar, consult the following staff and make additions to the calendar, based on their information:
a. The school counselor for dates of testing, especially standardized testing.
b. The principal/assistant principal for dates of special events (such as Relay for Life, special programs)
c. The choir director for scheduled concerts for your students
d. The band director for scheduled concerts/trips for your students
e. The athletic coaches -- check in with every single one of them for their specific events, including medical checkups, photo shoots, competitions, longer trips
f. Instructors sponsoring major clubs such as drama, science, business, agriculture, mock trial for their scheduled events
g. Your own professional training
h. The PTA/PTO officials for any important events such as Fall Festivals
i. Any town events that might pull your students from class, such as Homecoming, Christmas Parade
j. If your school normally loses days for weather, put in a "guesstimate".
k. Be aware of your student population. If many of the students attend a specific activity, do not schedule due dates for the next day. For example, many students in my area attend church for several hours on Wednesday, so I never make major assignments due on Thursday.
5. Obtain a large calendar or use the calendar function on a computer, and put in all these dates. I like to use a desk pad calendar (bless the National Guard!) and jot these dates down with various colored pencils. Spread your "guesstimate" days across the semester.
6. Back up 2 days from the 9 weeks and semester test and mark those days as review/make up dates.
7. Back up 4-7 days from the standardized test dates and mark those days as review/test skills dates.
8. Mark out the first 3-5 days of the semester as pre-testing/data collection/classroom skills training. You can actually begin teaching some content, but the main emphasis should be on getting the students ready to learn.
9. Pick out a week after midterm but well before finals that has few to no outside activities. This is the best time for your project.
10. Avoid either starting units or giving major tests when most of the students will be out. You will end up either repeating information or giving many make up exams.
11. The "guesstimate" dates, if not used by weather cancellations, can be used for "free work," "remediation," "enrichment," or to cover extra materials.
See my lesson notes on Curriculum 101 for planning the units in the semester.