No sooner does the school year end than I start to see teacher posts on Facebook popping up about back to school activities and planning for a new school year.
We are always looking to improve, aren’t we?
I love that teachers are always trying to make the beginning of the year smoother and more engaging, to find new ways to plant the seeds for growing a classroom community.
In this post, I’m going to talk about different activities you can use to begin the school year with middle school or high school English students. This isn’t a “do this” post, but rather a smorgasbord of ideas.
I hope you find something new to make this year the best one yet!
The Great Back to School Debate
It seems to me, from reading posts on social media and talking to teachers, that there are two camps when it comes to back to school activities.
💜 🙌 SEL, team-building, meet and greet!
📎📌Get to the content, time’s a wasting!
I fall somewhere in-between. I think it’s important to get students involved in academic tasks early on to establish classroom norms and set high expectations for students. At the same time, I want to make sure that I take some time to get to know my students and do some team-building and icebreaker activities.
So, I’ve come up with ways to blend the two camps. Who says I can’t have the best of both worlds?
➡️ During the first week, I want students to get an independent reading book. I also want them to read something, write something, and make their voices heard in the classroom.
Back to School Writing Activities
At the beginning of the school year, I find that short lesson sequences and quick writing activities work well to engage students and help me get to know my students and their skills. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Paired Text Activities
I use song and poem lessons to get students reading, discussing, and making connections. This helps to set an academic tone with short, relatable texts. If you’re really cooking with gas, ask your students to vote on their favorite of two songs or poems, and then plan a paired text analysis for the next day.
Writing a Credo
Students study Cyrano de Bergerac’s “Credo” as a mentor text, practice some guided close reading, and then write their own credo. This assignment makes for a great classroom decoration piece if you want to have students print and stylize their credos. I love having students hang up these back to school activities, then do a gallery walk to get to know their classmates. I usually have students find two classmates that express a similar interest or sentiment and two classmates that express a different one.
Back to School Reflection Activities
Some sort of goal-setting is in order in the beginning of the school year. Here are some of my favorite reflection activities. Whether you use graphic organizers, a Google Form, a four-wall discussion, or an interactive demonstration, show students that you care about them and want them to succeed by asking them to self-reflect and set goals. This is a gold mine for follow-up conversations with students, BYW.
Back to School Presentation Activities
Humans of Our Classroom
This fun activity is a hat nod to the well-known “Humans of New York” photojournalism project that has garnered a worldwide following. Students interview a classmate and create a profile page using the details they learned during the interview. You can post these around the room and/or have students give a quick, one-minute presentation to introduce their interviewee to the class.
What’s Your Sentence?
Students practice collaboration and you can establish norms for technology use with this self-introduction and reflection activity. It’s fun to see what students choose as their quote, sentence, and word on their slide. This activity also helps me to see which students can demonstrate abstract thinking and fully explain the significance of their choices.
Thanks for Reading!
I want to take a moment to thank you for reading and supporting my work! I hope you’re inspired to find ways to fold in academic (yet fun) back to school activities as formative assessments as you get to know your students.
➡️ Leave a comment below to let me know which of the activities in this post you’d like to try or what you’re trying this year as an opening activity!
Hey, if you loved this post, I want to be sure you’ve had the chance to grab a FREE copy of my guide to streamlined grading. I know how hard it is to do all the things as an English teacher, so I’m over the moon to be able to share with you some of my best strategies for reducing the grading overwhelm.
Click on the link above or the image below to get started!