Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to School- 7 Reeling in the Students Activities +Teacher Bonus

Middle School Students Lesson Plans/High School Lesson Plans

Welcome back to another school year!

Teachers' most important objective for the First Day of School is to reel in the students. Whether the topic is General School Rules, Classroom Rules, or Reviewing the Course Syllabus, educators know that they must bait their students with an activity or two that will lure them into becoming life-long learners.  Here are 8 activities-4 Free and 4 Priced- that will snag students' attention and present a warm and inviting learning environment.

Teaching Tip: offer one of these activities for your students to dig into while you take attendance. Save the rules and syllabus discussions for a bit later in class - after you have baited their brains with a fun and subtle writing and critical thinking activity.

First Day Writing Assignment
First Day Writing Assignment

Since writing is an integral part of the majority of language arts lessons, it's a good idea to obtain an idea of each student's writing skills the very first day of school.  This writing exercise will help you to focus on the writing elements that you will need to cover, and also serves as a smooth transition for the students from the summer break to the new school year. The First Day Writing Assignment gets the students thinking in an analytic manner.

Language Arts Comprehension Check:Ten Sentence Format

Ten Sentence Format

NOTE: This freebie is NOT an activity, but an invaluable teaching tool. I placed it here so you can consider handing it out as a pre-writing exercise for the First Day Writing Assignment.  Students can start working on it while you take attendance, and then complete it after you present and reinforce the behavior and academic expectations for the year.

This Ten Sentence Format reinforces students' basic understanding of the elements of a good paragraph while they practice writing about literature It also empowers them to write and develop more in-depth essays. Perfect for clarifying and reinforcing the parts of an essay, you may also use it as an announced or unannounced quiz when you wish to check reading and writing comprehension, and for general writing practice or warm-ups. (Free)

(Note:The Ten-Sentence Format is a part of the Writing Module of my book, The House of Comprehension. You can check out the book on the publisher's site, or on their Teachers pay Teachers site

Comprehension - It's Good to be Me...It's Good to be You

Comprehension - It's Good to be Me...It's Good to be You
These engaging activities will hook students into reading and writing about any text. The two activities engage students in their character exploration of the people they meet in their reading, but they will also allow your charges to reveal their own personalities and thoughts. This is a great way for young people to turn their private "The Me You Don't Know" traits and thoughts into their "The Me I Want You to Know" word pictures that they are willing to share publicly. 

Also, these FREE activities will jump start students' higher level thinking skills and give them a chance to exhibit their thinking in their writing. Although these work as great activities at the beginning of the year for you to get to know your students and for them to learn about each other, they are comprehensive activities throughout the year. (Free)

Writing (First Day) What About Me?

Writing (First Day) What About Me?
The first day of school is often filled with so much administrative detail and introductions to the class that teachers don't get a chance to really introduce themselves to the students and vice versa. This product, What About Me?, offers teachers and students a chance to reveal their thoughts and feelings about school and themselves to each other. 

With this activity, students will find out what their teachers expect from them, and teachers will understand what impacts their students academically. Teachers should fill out their separate sheet ahead of time, but not hand them out to the students until they complete theirs. If there is time in class, students can start their sheets, but might feel more comfortable completing them at home. Teachers should require them to be finished within the first few days of school so they can get to know their learners as soon as possible.

Language Arts Activity - "This is My Future"

Language Arts Activity - "This is My Future
Here is a beginning of the year ice breaker that helps the students get to know each other and offers the teacher a chance to learn about them- as young people and as students. In this activity, students consider their futures. What is their dream career? Where do they see themselves in five, ten, fifteen or twenty years? This thinking and writing assignment allows them to ponder who they are now, where they are going, and what they need academically to help them live their dream.

On this first day of school, ask them to start this activity by designing a poster that depicts their dream career. If class time permits, they now should write a paragraph explaining the school subjects and necessary skills that they will need to master in order to help them attain their goals. If you want to move on more quickly, have a few students summarize their designs and then complete the writing aspect at home. When they have finished this activity, pin up the posters around the classroom so that all of the students can look into their peers' futures. These make a fascinating bulletin board and visual for parent night.

Critical Thinking & Writing Lesson: Four Corners Activity

 Four Corners Activity
Engage your students the very first day by getting them on their feet where they can share their opinions on a variety of contemporary topics. After that, give them time to express their thoughts in writing. 

These activities allow students to show their analytic and critical-thinking skills in speaking and writing. Also, they offer teachers a good writing baseline, so they can assess what areas of writing their students will need to focus on during the year.
This is an excellent activity because it:
1. Makes the students think
2. Teaches them to express themselves verbally in a non-argumentative manner
3. Requires them to listen to others’ opinions
4. Gets the students actively involved on the first day of school.$)

Writing Activity: My Life's Journey

My Life's Journey
This activity lets students create a pictorial life map from their birth to the present day. Students should complete the project totally with images and brief captions. Continue the concept of this lesson with your first reading selection that the students will study. Although I have used this assignment in conjunction with teaching The Odyssey, it can accompany any story that involves a journey. It complements a variety of books-fiction and narrative non-fiction- for grades 6-12.$)

Timing is most crucial at the beginning of the school year. Snag students' attention and feed their learning appetites with one-or two of these offerings as appetizers.  Try this sequence of activities:

  1. Choose a writing activity as students settle in and you take attendance.
  2. Ask a few students to share their responses for this exercise.
  3. Review rules, the course syllabus and complete other administrative duties.
  4. Select an activity that gets the students moving and talking, i.e. the Four Corners Activity.
  5. Close the class with any instructions re completing the writing activity.

Teacher Bonus:

Back to School Freebie- Teacher CLASSMART List

Teacher CLASSMART List
This Back to School FREEBIE list is comprised of 12 supplies that will save teachers' sanity during the school year. Three of the Items included are:
1. Hand cleanser (extra-large). Classrooms are Free-Range Germ Zones.
3. Antiseptic cleaning spray. This is a must in Germ Warfare Defense to use with students who sneeze or cough on their homework/ tests and then try to hand in the tainted papers. When they do, smile, hand them the bottle and tell them to go into the hall and de-germ those weapons of mass congestion. This is also a necessity for desk cleaning and purifying the air. and
10. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Just like burgers need fries and eggs need bacon, grading that stack of essays calls for the fruit of the cocoa bean…in any form.

Although this isn't a First Day Activity, if you fill your supply closet with these items, you will enjoy a year that is as germ-free, stress-free and headache-free as possible.
Preparing your Back to School First Day Agenda now will guarantee you a good sleep the night before Opening Day. Bait your teaching hooks now with any of these 7 activities as well as your CLASSMART List.

Happy Teaching,