August 21, 2015

Back to School: Ideas For Starting The Year

Going back to school means getting back into planning mode. In this #2ndaryELA Twitter chat, middle school & high school English Language Arts teachers discussed collecting student information to inform instruction, syllabi, supplies, first day/week activities, and must teach routines/procedures for the first day/week. Read through the chat for ideas to implement in your own classroom.
This week's #2ndaryELA Twitter chat was all about back to school in the ELA classroom. Middle and High School English Language Arts discussed collecting student information to inform instruction, syllabi, supplies, first day/week activities, and must teach routines/procedures for the first day/week. The highlights are below.

Student information to collect at the start of the year:
*Interests, likes and dislikes to make lessons more engaging
*Book/author/genre interests
*Literary/grammar survey & writing samples to decide what needs to be reviewed/introduced
*What’s easy/what’s hard about reading/writing responses
*Past reading level data, AR/STAR levels from past years
*WRAT testing for IEPs
*Hobbies, family, academic strength/weakness, goals/aspirations

On the syllabus:
*Unit and/or lesson outline
*Assessment details
*Useful links
*Contact info
*Teacher background info
*Needed materials
*Student expectations
*Class library info
*Learning skills
*Assignment/homework policy
*Remind sign-up
*Tutorial times/conference periods
*Class website
*Technology access survey

Tips: If you use interactive notebooks (INBs) in your classroom, have students glue the syllabus into their INB so they can reference it any time. Make your syllabus more interactive by creating a QR scavenger hunt or a PowToon.

On the student supply list:
*Colored pencils
*Notebooks for interactive notebooks
*Library book
*Note cards
*Sticky notes (check out Post It Plus App)
*Google account
*Device in 1-to-1 schools

Tips: Have extra supplies for students who forget or cannot afford them. Create a “student station” where these supplies are readily available to students. Going as paperless as possible will save money besides being environmentally friendly. 

Ideas for the first day/week:
*Student bingo (students must find someone that fits the description).
*BookSelfie activity.
*Use stations on the 1st day to set a tone of active engagement.
*Give students a Middle School Survival kit the first day and then have them work in groups to create their own survival kits,
*Do read dating/book pass. It's kind of like musical chairs with books. Students preview lots of books (cover, summary, skim) to see what jumps out at them.
*Do a writer's workshop using coming of age poetry. It's relatable for students and poetry is low risk.
*Share favorite books, read, write & do some low-risk speaking and sharing. Use play doh or Legos to create a summer highlight.
*Read The Important Book & discuss how it's okay to disagree with author & teachers.
*Go to the library & create spine poems to explore & become familiar with the layout of the library.
*Write in journals to fire (or murder!) our internal critics and establish confidence in writing in a fun way.
*Write a Kelly Gallagher "What Bugs You List."
*Write Kelly Gallagher sneezes to express and reflect. Many found in his book, Write Like This.
*Do rotations where the students decide what they want room to feel/look like. Set goals & use this to build contract.
*Show "Audri's Monster Trap," an awesome message about resilience.
*Create to-read lists.
*Teacher & student led book talks. 
*Hook students up to Remind/Bloomz. 
*Share summer reading positives & negatives. 
*Do a website scavenger hunt to get students familiar with your site.
*Create a Bucket List including items that help others. 
*More first day/week videos here, here, and here.

Must teach routines/procedures the first day/week:
*Brainstorm how to treat classroom space and each other as well as classroom rules
*How to start & end class
*How to turn in work
*Participation expectations
*Emergency drills
*Respect for each other and property
*Homework expectations
*Book check out
*Collaboration and communication! How to work and learn as a team!
*Daily journaling
*Foster independence by creating "What do I do when I'm stuck" ideas.

Hope you'll join us next week, Tuesday August 25th at 8pm EST to discuss parent communication in the ELA classroom. The questions for next week's chat will be posted here on Sunday. If you missed Tuesday night's chat, scroll down and read the whole thing below.

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