We are finally back on our regular blogging routine after an extremely extended “break” because of the teachers’ strike here in BC.  Instead of going back to school on September 2nd, we went back on September 22nd, just in time for a Back to School Teach it Tuesday post!  Today we have some start of year ideas that can (hopefully) be easily adapted to suit various grade levels.  We love feedback, so let us know in the comments what works/what doesn’t work, and if you have any other start up ideas of your own that you’re willing to share.

Advisory: Advisory tends to be a very “middle school” term, but it can be practiced at any grade level.  Essentially, advisory is the first portion of the day where students are settling into the classroom for the day.  Some students come in late and always miss advisory, whereas others are always the first people at school and never miss this time.  Advisory is a nice transition time from gathering with friends in the hallway to setting the tone for the day at school.  As teachers we both

Our Gratitude Advent Calendar from last Christmas.
Our Gratitude Advent Calendar from last Christmas.

personally adore advisory because we find we make the best connections with students during these crucial 20 (ish) minutes.  Last year I (Karley) set up a gratitude advent calendar at my house during the Christmas season.  We didn’t take this calendar down until May (I know).  This autumn I plan to do something similar in our house, but I plan to use cut outs of leaves, twine and mini clothespins instead.  We are hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for friends this year, so I think we might start our “Vine of Gratitude” then.  This idea can definitely be extended into the classroom and added to on a daily basis.

Language Arts: I (Meaghan) absolutely love language arts at the start of the year because there are so many different directions you can take with it! This year I’m starting a class off a few days a week with a read aloud novel and some different activities to go along with it. The first activity is going to be a simple reflection of the plot through a drawing and then we will move into writing questions about the book. The idea of this is to model some of the reading strategies we use, as well as literature circle roles. For the questioning part I always give students stems from Bloom’s Taxonomy and have them create questions about the plot for each type. Some great read aloud books include: James and the Giant Peach (gr. 5), Elijah of Buxton (gr. 6), Flipped (gr. 7)

Math: Math is sometimes a tricky one to start off with because there is often a list of things you need to do in terms of assessment and review to start off the year. I always like to try to make sure we are making math fun and engaging though, especially right at the beginning. Some of the best ways I find to do this are by using really good problem solving questions and having students address the questions in a group, paying attention to the different routes to solve a problem. Another way to start off is with basic facts review, making sure to go over strategies beforehand, and then adding a game component where students need to answer questions correctly in order to move up a game board or to gain “stamps” on a passport around the world. Some of these take a little bit more prep but they are a lot of fun for students and can often be worked into your math class throughout the year as well.

Science: Science is a tough one to start off with because it tends to be a curriculum dense subject.  Last year I had multiple conversations with my grade 8s about what they wanted to learn in science (ie. more specific aspects of the curriculum) and

Last year's interactive science notebooks.
Last year’s interactive science notebooks.

how they wanted to learn in science (ie. not from a textbook).   We have drafts of a new science curriculum in BC, so I spent some time discussing the new curriculum with my class and we decided which pieces of it we wanted to play around with in our learning.  I was also really keen to use interactive notebooks last year in science, so we started out our year of science by actually creating the notebooks.

Social Studies: A fun activity to get students minds rolling in social studies is this group mapping activity (this is an activity I adapted from somebody at some point and can’t remember who – if you know please remind me so I can give credit). Basically in groups of 3-4 students are given a large sheet of paper and without looking at any maps or electronic devices they are supposed to make the best map of the world that they can from memory. This includes countries, oceans, continents, etc. – anything they can remember! At the end you project a map of the world and see how accurate they were. For an adaptation you can hang onto the maps and redo the activity at the end of the year to see how students visions have changed.

French: At any grade level where French is part of the curriculum, I think it’s a good idea to start from the basics because most FSL students don’t spend their summers speaking French or thinking about French.  Last year I used an idea from a seasoned and brilliant French teacher friend of mine and tweaked it a little bit to fit the needs of the grade 7 students I was working with.  We reviewed numbers by simply counting out loud, adding and subtracting, and learning/reviewing our phone numbers in French.  I had the students write down their phone numbers and their names on a slip of paper and then I collected all the papers and we played a weird version of “telephone”.  I would pull out a student’s number (and I knew whose number it was because their name was on the paper) and called out the number in French.  The student whose phone number I was calling had to get up and run to the phone in our classroom and pretend to have a conversation with me.  At first we just worked on the numbers piece of this game, but eventually we got far enough in our review to start having a mini conversation on the phone.  I started every French class this way for about two weeks and the students really seemed to launch into French review in a positive manner.

Physical Education: Instead of writing a new lesson plan here we are just going to direct you to a couple of the PE posts we have done in the past that still remain good PE lessons: here and here.

Check our our Teach it Tuesday section above for more lesson ideas – Have a great start to the year everyone!

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