Wow! Summer just flew by. It is time to start getting things ready for the new school year. In my district we start the middle of August. When do you go back?
With that in mind, what do you do the first 9 weeks of school? How do you get things started in your classroom? Here is how I am starting out the year.
First 2 Weeks
Since I am teaching 7th graders, I like to start the year with some get to know you activities to help the students feel safe and welcome in a new school. One of these activities is my All About Me Doodle Notes. This is the perfect Back To School activity to get to know your students. The students have 10 tasks to complete--
*Draw a Selfie
*Answer 5 "Casual" questions
*Answer 3 Somewhat Personal questions
*Answer 1 Very Personal question
Students create their answers in a series of pictures and words. Then I love to hang these doodle notes around the classroom and outside in the hallway so they can get to know each other. This activity is also a great way to introduce using Sketchnotes/Doodle Notes to your students. My other get to know you activity comes from Addie Williams. It is her Soundtrack of My Life. You can find it on her TPT Store. It is a fun activity where students create a soundtrack with songs that represent who they are.
I want to review how to write in complete sentences with my students at the beginning of the year because it is one of the biggest grammatical mistakes that I see them make. I made a lesson where the students learn about the parts of a sentence from the book Super Grammar. It takes these concepts and ties them to Super Heroes and the grammar mistakes are Villains. Then I am going to do a fun station activity from Room 213 about Sentence Fragments and Run-ons. It is such an engaging and hands on activity for the students to learn and review fragments and run-ons. You can find this in her TPT store.
Central Idea and Supporting Details
One of our big focuses at the beginning of the year is for students to identify the central ideas and its supporting details in a text. We also want them to be able to write a summary. To teach these concepts we are going to be reading The Outsiders. We will be reading articles about different things the students will encounter while reading the novel, and the students will practice finding the central idea and supporting details in the articles. Then as they read the novel, they will be looking for obstacles or at-risk behaviors the characters face. They will be summarizing the behavior and use a sentence frame to cite the behavior or obstacle. You can find this activity in my TPT Store.
Informational Text Structures
We will be focusing on 3 text structures--Chronology, Description, and Compare and Contrast. Since our theme and essential question for these 9 weeks is "Everyone has a story," we are going to have the students tell their story. We love how this goes along with The Outsiders and the story that Ponyboy tells about the Greasers and Socs. We want our students to tell their story. So, they will be creating a life map of the highs and lows in their life. Then they will write a description piece about a hurdle they have overcome in their own life. Finally, they will be comparing and contrasting who they are vs. who they want to be.
My students love playing games. Usually a couple times a semester, they ask if they can have a game day. I get it! Games are fun. I even have a cupboard in my classroom full of games. I think using games is a great way for kids to review for a simple review of a concept, a test, or a quiz.
I saw this one on Instagram. @teachingthedistance posted about playing Connect 4 with the students. You have your review questions and the students answer them individually. Then they talk with the members on their team to see if they got the right answer. The team writes the answer on a sticky and places it on the board in one of the Connect 4 spaces! If an answer is wrong, the sticky is taken off and the ones above it move down. The first team to have 4 in a row is the winner.
This game uses a PowerPoint. You can find downloadable Jeopardy templates on the internet. To begin, create questions and answers worth a specific amount of points. Divide the students into two teams and have each team choose a number. Their goal is to answer the question that is attached to the number they chose. I like to have a regular round and a Double Jeopardy round where the questions are a little bit harder. Then at the end, I have them answer a final Jeopardy question.
This game was suggested by a student in my first period class. We were making flash cards one day for the students to study for their Rhetorical Analysis test. One of my students suggested we could play a guessing game where you put the flashcard on your forehead and your partner gives you clues about the word, and you have to guess the word on your flashcard. Brilliant!! So for the rest of the day, I had my students make flash cards so we could play the Headbandz review game next class before we took the test.
I LOVE Monopoly, but my husband hates it and won't play it. So when I saw a review idea for this game, I just had to include it here on my list. I am definitely going to try this one next year! For this review game, each student is on his own, there are no teams. Each student receives the same amount of Monopoly money. They are allowed to wager their money based on how confident they know the answer to the review question you ask. If they get the question correct, they keep the money, if they are wrong their money goes to the next person who gets the answer correct. At the end of the game they can cash their money in for prizes. You can categorize the questions with the names of the topics you are reviewing!
I love to watch this show on TV. In fact it is on my Bucket List to go on the show. My family loves to play the board game version of this, and they have told me I can't be on their team. Once when we were playing, the question was "Name things you ask where they are at a Hotel?" I said, "Vending Machine." Of course it wasn't an answer, but still to this day, I look for the vending machine. I mean, what if I get hungry and want a little snack??
To play, list categories to review, such as “Bodies of Water” and “Capital Cities” for a unit on Europe. Write the categories on index cards and list five items under each. Then divide kids into “families.” Toss a coin to see which team goes first. Announce the category and ask a member of the first team to give a response. If the response is on the card, award the team 20 points. Continue, with each team member taking a turn. Incorrect responses count as a strike. If the team gets three strikes before naming all responses on the card, another team can “steal” the points, but only if it can name one of the remaining responses on the card. If not, the first team keeps the points and wins that round. Teams alternate going first in each round. The first to earn 300 points wins.
Summer! It is time to relax and get to that stack of books on my night stand. But also it is time to work on planning and prepping for next year.
I have a few things to help you out with planning for next year and for those first few days back! These links below will take you to my Teacher's Pay Teachers store to download the product.
And best of all--they are FREE!!
I created this curriculum map to help you plan the year, term, semester, or even a unit! It has places to enter your essential question, standards, assessments, and "I Can" statements.
This is the perfect Back To School activity to get to know your students. Doodle notes are a great way for students to be engaged and stay focused. The students have 10 tasks to complete--
*Draw a Selfie
*Answer 5 "Casual" questions
*Answer 3 Somewhat Personal questions
*Answer 1 Very Personal question
Students create their answers in a series of pictures and words. Then I love to hang these doodle notes around the classroom and outside in the hallway so they can get to know each other. This activity is also a great way to introduce using Sketchnotes/Doodle Notes to your students.
Have you ever wanted something to give the parents at Back To School night that answers all their questions? I have! I created this brochure that you can make to give to the parents. It includes a place to put a picture of you and contact information. The panels in the brochure include: what we are reading, what we will be writing, about me, homework expectations, and the supplies needed for the school year. You can keep these sections or create your own!
Last summer during the 120 degree heatwave in Phoenix, I was on a fun family vacation before my husband started his new job. My husband's brother and his family live down there, so we were having a fun time hanging out and swimming in the pool to get away from the sweltering heat. One night, my sister-in-law introduced me to TED Ed Riddles. She said that we needed to check out this cool video they found on YouTube. I usually don't like riddles, but these were so much fun and engaging. We spent at least 30 minutes just trying to come up with a solution to the riddle. I immediately pulled out my phone and sent myself an email about these. I knew these would be excellent for problem solving!
These riddles are awesome. You can find them on YouTube or the TED Ed website. I have been doing them with my classes as starters or as brain breaks. They are fun and interactive. Some of my students favorite ones have been the 7 Planets riddle and the Airplane riddle.
These riddles are a great way to incorporate problem solving skills in the classroom in a fun and interactive way.
When I use them, I show the first part of the video, where they explain the problem and what needs to be solved. Then I pause the video for a few minutes at the rules screen so that the students can talk with each other and figure out the solution to the riddle. Then we watch the solution. The kids love to do them.
Here in Utah, we cannot attach state testing in any way, shape, or form to a student’s grade. We can’t even off incentives as motivation to do well.
So in comes my own year-end final. But by the time I give it at the end of May they have just had a whole month of state testing for English, Math, and Science. I don’t want to give them another 65 question test over the material we have learned this year.
In comes my dilemma—I am at a loss for different ways my students can show me what they have learned with it not being a test or a writing assignment. I have 1 class period (70 minutes) to accomplish this task. Let the brainstorming begin!
I did some searching on the old internet to see what ideas I could find for alternative assessment ideas. Wow! There is a lot out there. Here is some of what I found--
The assessment menu is wonderful. Students are given a "menu" that lists several assessment options. They must complete a certain number of activities on the menu by the end of the unit. Students get choice! I love that.
In this example here, the students need to pick 4 different tasks--from different levels and learning styles. Some of the fun assessment activities are: Create a Dictionary, Diary Entries, Make a Comic Book, Explore the "What if...", and Exploring a Controversial Issue.
I love that this gets the students working at various DOK levels, and that it provides students with many opportunities to show what they know.
Having students get up and present to the class is a great way for them to show what they have learned. On InformEd, there is an article about how peer teaching can improve student learning. Students teaching students has many benefits:
Research also indicates that peer learning activities typically yield the following results for both tutor and tutee: team-building spirit and more supportive relationships; greater psychological well-being, social competence, communication skills and self-esteem; and higher achievement and greater productivity in terms of enhanced learning outcomes.
There are many awesome resources on Teachers Pay Teachers to help the kids learn how to give TED talk style speeches! Go check them out.
While sifting through the results of my Google search, I found Tech In Pedagogy. Joshua Elliot wrote a fabulous post about using tech for alternative assessments. One of his ideas is to do a presentation Jigsaw. My students all have a Google account, so they can log-in and put together a Google Slide Show. Each of the students will do certain slides in the slide show and then going back to the student presentation option, the students can get up in front of the class to present what they learned.
Ideas from YOU!
I posed this question on Facebook and Instagram. Here are some your suggestions:
whitalynn_teaches--I really liked something my mentor teacher did while I was student teaching. She gave the kids a list of topics covered and students had to write one to two pages defending or criticizing a component of the year. So if a student hated Great Gatsby, they would write about how it needs to be replaced with XYZ or Activity 1 helped a lot, but Activity 2 needs these adjustments because... etc. It is very reflective, gives you feedback, and lets you see the kids write one more time.
techsavvyela--Last year, we did a fishbowl discussion to showcase what we learned. Students sat in a circle and asked questions (I asked some too) regarding big themes and ideas we discussed in the semester. I teach 11th grade so you might have to modify a little, but it was really great- and really quick to grade 😉
Renee Hargrove--God love 'em. I make my seniors do an on-demand style essay.
Catherine Conlon Storke--A portfolio reflection of their growth in each of the standards. It puts the work on them to reflect on what they learned.
Natalie McKee--My mom said she had a professor in college who gave a test and at the end told students they could "dump" anything else they'd studied for but that hadn't been on the test as a bonus. I thought it was a great idea.
Nichole Lynn--Digital story