This post originally appeared on the blog Learning in Room 213.
Some of you are going back to school soon, while others have a month of summer left. Whether you’re setting the alarm or still dreaming of better ways to engage your students, you might find something for you here. I’ve rounded up some of my favourite back-to-school posts in the hope of providing you with some help and inspiration.
I wrote recently about my decision to give up my Pinterest and Instagram Classroom envy so I could concentrate on what really matters in my room — the learning. This post from last year focuses a little more on that, and tells you about the lessons and activities that I use during my first few days of school to create an environment of learning in Room 213.
When you’re out shopping for supplies for your classroom, you don’t have to break the bank. In fact, the things I use the most — and have the greatest success with — are pretty cheap. In this post, I tell you about the four things that I keep on hand at all times, as well as tips for how to use them in your classroom. You’ll also find many posts throughout my blog that show these must-haves in action!
When it is time for back to school, you may want to switch things up a bit. Secondary students meet several teachers on their first day and hearing about rules, routines, and expectations can get a little repetitive and monotonous. Break the pattern with more engaging ways to give them that first day information.
Call me crazy, but I like to put a whole lot more effort into my students than all the administrivia. It’s the first day of a whole semester where these students will become “my kids.” Many will spend more time with me than they do with their parents every day. Because of this, I want the day to be a special one, one that is more than me droning on at the front of the room about my syllabus and my rules and regulations. If it’s the last period in the day, my students will have sat in three other classes already, listening to three other teachers drone on about the same stuff — just after coming back from two months of vacation! Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Last year I used this free getting to know you activity, and it worked really well, but this year I’m kicking it up a notch. After a successful year of using learning stations in my classroom (and a customer request), I decided to create some stations that will get the first day jobs done in a far more effective and interesting manner.
One station focuses on the syllabus in a way that makes it more likely they might actually read it! One option at this station has them answer questions after reading a copy of it; the other has them use this sheet (and another) to create their own version of the information.
Other stations have students talking with and getting to know each other, as well as giving you some information that will help you get to know them.
My favourite stations, though, are the Classroom Expectations and the Making Suggestions Stations. These allow students to have a voice in the creation of a classroom code of conduct and to make suggestions for the class, based on activities and assignments they’ve enjoyed in the past.
At the end of the period, the students will still come away with all of the same information that they would have if I’d been in droning mode. They will have had a chance to move and talk and think, and I will have been walking around among groups, chatting and getting to know them better. Sounds like a great plan to me!
OK. As much as I’d like to ignore the administrivia, I can’t and neither can you. However, you can do a few things to not only keep it all organized, but also spend less time on it with your students.
We always have multiple forms to give our homeroom students: schedules, demographic info, technology consent forms, etc. I used to pass these out one at a time, but now, the day before, I make make a pile for each student, with each form stapled together. This serves two purposes: I only have to pass one thing to each student and, because they are all stapled together, they can hand the pile to their parent or guardian to get signed at once – and hopefully return them back to me intact. You can also add a little incentive to this task: return the forms tomorrow and you get a candy treat!
Once you get past those first days, it’s time to get focused on your curriculum. I know many teachers get frustrated with older kids not doing their reading, so you may want to check out this post, where I offer suggestions for ways to get your teens to actually read.
And once they’ve done the reading, it’s time to teach them how to analyze text, something I’ll be asking them to do all semester. Because it’s such an important skill, I jump right into showing them how to do it. You can grab some tips for that here.
I have some amazing English teacher friends who have some back-to-school tips for you as well. You really should check them out:
I hope you’ve found something here to ease your way back into the new school year. Good luck!
Jackie has been teaching and learning in Room 213 for 24 years. She has her Masters of Education in secondary English curriculum and currently teaches 12th grade academic and general, as well as an 11th grade International Baccalaureate class. Her focus with all students is on learning how to learn, critical thinking, and love of reading. She lives in Prince Edward Island with her husband and three children. You can read more about her adventures as a teacher at her blog, Real Learning in Room 213 or on Facebook. You can also visit her at her TpT store Room 213 and on Pinterest.