5 Easy Ways to Kick off the Year with your Best Foot Forward

Pencil.pngAs you’re prepping to head back to school, here’s a few tips to make your life easier and set you up for a successful school year! These five tips should help you prepare your classroom before your students arrive and start the year with high student engagement.

  1. Beautify your classroom walls with a purpose Search.png
    • Motivational posters are a great start, but the walls of your classroom are also valuable real estate to reinforce the most critical content for students — using anchor charts allows you to reference core concepts constantly and train students to independently seek answers when they are stuck.
    • Make Life Easy Resource: Bundle of 15 Anchor Charts for Middle School ELA 
      • This includes anchor charts you can print as posters (or handouts for students) about the rhetorical triangle, author’s craft, writing process, being specific in writing, parts of speech, comma rules, figurative language, and many more!
  2. Change up your regular routine for getting to know your studentsGame-Controller.png
    • Instead of handing your students that age-old questionnaire asking about their favorite experiences from the summer and academic strengths, why not turn this activity on its head to get the information you need from students in an interactive, engaging way?
      • Try using a game like Scoot or small groups to get students up and moving to reinforce your classroom management skills and expectations of students in the first days of school.
    • Make Life Easy Resource: Scoot Get to Know Your Students Game 
      • Use a game of “scoot” (students answer a question taped to each desk on a  bingo-like board as they silently move around the room). This resource includes the questions, game board, directions, and more!
  3. Invest your students in real-life outcomes related to readingBookmarks.png
    • As a language arts teacher, it’s critical to engage your students in reading from day 1; I’ve found that students who aren’t typically interested in reading respond well to real-life data/outcomes about reading — things like how much more money “good” readers make in a lifetime.
    • Make Life Easy Resource: Why Read? Back to School Reading Investment Lesson
      • I use this PowerPoint as one of my first lessons after going back to school. It’s a non-traditional way to engage students in a meaningful conversation about their future goals and how there’s a clear link to reading for almost all measures of success.
  4. Don’t waste time on grammar concepts your students knowMagic-Wand.png
    • Instead of starting the year by re-teaching basic concepts like nouns and pronouns, intentionally figure out what your students do and don’t know so you can remediate appropriately.
    • Make Life Easy Resource: Grammar Skills Formative Assessment 
      • I use this 55-question “test” as a formative assessment at the beginning of the year. It includes over 10 critical grammar concepts and materials for students to self-grade and identify skills they need to work on. Use this to customize and differentiate instruction, while also empowering students to take ownership of their learning.
  5. Shake up (or solidify) your beginning of class routineCheckmark.png
    • Setting up a consistent routine for the first few minutes of class has consistently been the most important aspect of my classroom management — if my kids come in calm and know exactly what I expect them to do at the beginning of class, the rest of the period goes smoothly. I do this with a daily routine based on the day of the week that cycles through bell ringers, journaling, and Greek/Latin morphemes.
    • Make Life Easy Resource: TNReady RI + RL On the Road Bell Ringers 
      • If you are a teacher in Tennessee, you understand the importance of integrating TNReady-aligned questions from the beginning of the year. I love these bell ringers because students have a workbook they use throughout the semester (or year) to record their question answers + explanation of why the answer is correct. The “on the road” theme is a fun way to start exposing students to TNReady content.

Greek & Latin Word Parts Instruction: Strategy Instruction, Not Memorization

 

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Engage students in “navigating” Greek & Latin Word Parts with this Anchor Chart!

How do you teach students to effectively use context clues while reading literature and
informational texts? Students struggle with context clues because they are amorphous; there is no clear-cut set of steps to define unknown words, phrases, or paragraphs. Students who effectively make use of context clue strategies to define words don’t have more content knowledge than other students, but they more effectively monitor comprehension and know when to rely on different strategies.

Every teacher has their own spin on how and when to teach context clue strategies. I believe that because context clues are foundational to success on every other reading and comprehension related standard, context clue strategies must be diverse to meet the needs of every student and pervasive so the use of these strategies become innate.

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