1. Change just enough to make it new. You don't want kiddos to not be excited about school because they are in the same room or with the same teacher. However, one of the BIGGEST benefits of looping is being able to jump into teaching right away. Change your theme, color scheme, labels, seating arrangement.... those fun "side" things about a classroom. Don't change your rotation charts, your schedule, your procedures or your rules IF they worked for you and your students last year.
2. Did you have a difficult student you are dreading to see again? If you did, greet that kiddo with open arms on that first day. You might be the most stable person they have in their life and chances are they are relieved that they already know you. Make them your unofficial assistant, co-teacher, or buddy. You have the upper hand because now you know their strengths and their interests. Set something up for them to be successful right off the bat.
3. Don't be afraid to change some things up. I added a nightly reading (20 min) in second grade and got rid of typical homework. You aren't stuck with something because you did it the year before. Be honest about why you are making the change. Most times parents have seen the same issues and will be on board for the change!
4. Pay attention to your classroom library. I found that about 3/4 through the year my students weren't reading a lot of non-fiction text. When I questioned them about it they were quick to tell me that they had read most of them (and I have a TON of books)! Get together with other teachers who may be looping up or switching grades to add some new titles to your classroom library.
5. Throw out your old topics (until the next year at least). I had to come up with some new topics or themes to teach this past year. Even though I knew how much I had spent on that dinosaur unit (eeekkk$), I had to put it on the back burner because we had covered that topic through and through. This is also a great way to find new topics to teach and to push yourself to learn new things!
6. When you loop with the same group of kiddos, you are bound to get some new kids added to your list to even the numbers out. Make sure you pay special attention to these kiddos. I paired these students immediately with some of my more outgoing students. It is easy for these students to get lost when they are added to a group that has already built a bond. Paying them extra attention and emphasizing their importance to the classroom will help them mix right in perfectly!
7. Don't get too comfortable! I built a great relationship with my students and it was easy to let some things "slide". These kiddos will eventually go on to a different teacher the following year... they can't stay with you forever! Remember to reinforce that behavior and expectations are to make THEM better students, learners and citizens... not to please you as a teacher.
8. Be ready to let go. This past last day of school was very hard... both on the students and on me. As we prepare for the next school year I am literally dreading seeing "my students" on the first day go on to their new teachers. It's very difficult to hand them over after spending two years with them. However, this past year was probably the most rewarding both academically and personally. Be prepared to be invested in your kiddos for the long haul!
Looping can be an awesome, time-saving, stress relieving experience! You are building a bond that can last a lifetime!