Back to School Ideas for Middle and High School Teachers

New and exciting back to school ideas and activities for middle and high school teachers from the 2 Peas and a Dog blog.
Back to school brings fresh ideas for the classroom. Lots of teachers shared their thoughts and ideas on engaging back to school activities to make the transition from summer to school more enjoyable for students during this Twitter chat.
Teachers are using their summers to prepare for their upcoming classes, organize their classroom, and learn new things through professional development workshops and books.
Many teachers shared that they are leaving the traditional introduction of rules, and the syllabus until Day 2. Other teachers shared ideas for hashtag get to know you activities, shoeboxes full of mementos and letter writing templates.
Everyone who participated had one thing in common – an excitement for the coming school year.
Scroll down to read the curated Twitter chat summary.

Q1: What preparations for next school year are you doing over the summer?

  • I’m not teaching this school year, so I am reading PD books, watching videos, & learning from y’all in the Facebook group and chats. 
  • Building my first online PLN. Yay! 🙂 Tech training and practice. Finding new lit. Lesson plans
  • Over the summer, I like to do professional reading & plan out a general view of my year
  • Just got offered a new position at my school as a literacy coach so I’ll have lots of planning to do for that
  • I am planning out: lessons, classroom routines, policies, set up. Also reading professional development books
  • Reading lots of YA including #GRAAAB, tons of summer tech PD, now getting ready to write #bts16 postcards to all my students!
  • I am prepping for the new year by getting organized! I rearranged my traditional desks into pods of 3 🙂 
  • I’ve been doing a lot of reading (for Myth Class) and going over my reflections from last year to improve my lessons 
  • So far I’ve read How to Read Literature Like a Professor for Kids (love it!) and Thinking on the Page
  • I’m reading a lot about writing and mentor texts and planning units
  • LOTS of reading over the summer so that I can have lots of books to recommend to all my readers
  • I’m trying out Notice & Note to dive into Analyzing Lit. I also need to purge my binders! Trying online lesson planning too! 
  • I am prepping for school by reading several YA novels, organizing my files in Google Drive, and converting warm ups to digital
  • I’ve got EVERYTHING organized on new Office 365 AND restored and updated my Mac! Super great feeling! 
  • I am rewriting units, exploring hyper docs, and revamping grading system, and I just finished @eiwpEIU
  • I’ve been doing a ton of reading. Grit and Smarter, Better, Faster are very good!
  • I’m researching standard based grading on Canvas (LMS), reading novels, & setting up my classroom
  • I keep a 2016-17 ideas list handy at all time for new things I see online or learn about in the classes I’m taking
  • I also have Reading in the Wild and How We Learn in my list
  • I have also really tried to think of more collaborative work that I can have the students do to help them feel more in control 
  • Today, I spent time in my room getting my books back on shelves! 
  • Reading many great new YA & PD books, taking one 3-day course, reflecting on last year, planning and mapping for next year

Q2: What are you most looking forward to about this school year?

  • I am looking forward to being a second-year teacher and having a greater sense of what to do and being confident about it! 
  • Plus, our classroom will have flexible seating options, so I can’t wait to see the students react to something other than desks! 
  • Our class will be participating in #MockNewbery and #classroombookaday Can’t wait to share and discuss books with students! 
  • I am most looking forward to going as paperless as possible
  • Looking forward to the rush from doing what I love–when I know kids, where I am going, in the middle of the chaos
  • This school year, I hope to study more about Genius Hour and alternative grading methods
  • Looking forward to providing more support for teachers with their ELA instruction, more differentiation for students 
  • I love the new opportunity every year to try new things & improve my instruction! 
  • I am excited to plan and teach new units or try out different ideas in existing units
  • Getting to know my new students and growth as a teacher and person. 
  • Looking forward to #GRAAAB #GRA16 & more authentic feedback for my students via @Seesaw!
  • I am going into my third year of teaching so I’m excited about having resources already and then just adding to them! 
  • I am looking forward to revising ideas as I move into my second year of middle school (15 years in elementary)
  • I want to do more outside the box type of activities to help better engage the kids
  • So excited to go back into the classroom this year. Three years coaching drained me
  • Trying out new ideas gleaned from my summer of PD! New approach to reading & writing in my classroom
  • I got rid of desks! Well most of them
  • This will be my 2nd year teaching these subjects (14th teaching) so I’m looking forward to being comfortable w/the material
  • I’m looking forward to piloting new reading and ELA curriculum – and creating #hyperdocs
  • I’m looking forward to so much. New School – New Experiences. My first time teaching just one grade level! 
  • My kids. I’ve been missing them. Seeing a lot of them around town, but need to get them in my room! 
  • Looking forward to diving into Genius Hour, Notice & Note, Growth Mindset, & more tech with Schoology & Google! 
  • I’m looking forward to being able to focus on 1 grade level + hopefully having some of my 6th grade students again this year! 
  • I am most excited to go back and share new units/lessons with students, as well as new teaching strategies from my PD readings.
  • Heard today that if you change 5% every year, you will be extraordinary! Attainable and impactful!

Q3: Describe the first day of school in your classroom. 

  • Usually a letter from me and a student info survey. After it is Bingo where they have 2 introduce themselves to me and others 
  • 1st day of school, will have a digital syllabus & work stations instead to rotate through! This will be a 360 from last year
  • Collect materials, guide students to different classrooms, & practice time for padlocks! It’s a difficult thing for 6th graders! 
  • My first day includes expectations, introductions, and a fun activity. We do not read the syllabus on the 1st day 
  • First day will be spent community building, getting to know, ice breakers
  • The first day is short in my school, and we only go over the syllabus and have a welcome assembly
  • 1st day classes are short. Hard to do something important
  • 1st day is about setting the tone: we work hard & play hard in this class
  • Building relationships. Getting books in hands and out in the room through talk. Setting the stage for a year of reading & writing 
  • I hate standing at the front of the room & talking so I do stations on the 1st day. Read more here: http://goo.gl/W2uIGX
  • On the first day, I always have something on student’s desk to work on or read so I have time to deal with last minute items 
  • 1st 5 days will be getting to know my kids–even if I’ve had them before, there’s new things to learn 
  • Syllabus, name tags, file folders, Popsicle stick names…Maybe in centers? We have short classes. Maybe a syllabus Kahoot. Surprises, smiles, socialization, secrets. 
  • Last year I did the play-dough lesson from #TLAP I’m still not decided how I want to start day 1 this year
  • Model for Speech and Drama kids, they will perform the 2nd day
  • I’m going to try and make it as non-cliché as possible. Getting to know and learning from one another
  • We have to read the syllabus, but kids take home your BtS survey!
  • Games, games, and more games. It is about building the culture, and a little about my class
  • I’ll send syllabus home during open house. Frees up that first day for getting to know kids
  • Syllabus Kahoot, review of expectations, and student interest inventory will be part of our first day (100-minute blocks X 3) 
  • I am going to switch it up this year and do stations on the first day! I think that will get students moving around and excited
  • Deliberately NOT doing procedures/expectations on Day 1 this year. Trying culture building 1st, and will do that on Day 2 
  • I also will have students read advice letters from my students from last year to help them adjust and learn expectations
  • Teaching routines. Inner city, high behavior problems means I’m starting to teach day one
  • I plan on making copies of the letters & putting them in balloons the students have to inflate to get to the pieces of advice and I’ll tell the students that the pieces of advice are SO good that they have to work hard to get them 🙂
  • No getting to know you for my kids. They’ve been to school together, play football or dance together 

Q4: What is your favorite getting to know you activity? 

  • Favorite getting to know you activity FOR my students is to find a partner for each question I give them and take a selfie! 
  • I share my welcome letter/PPT, read a picture book & play a name game where I try to memorize all student’s names! 3 classes, 75 students!
  • Any icebreaker with these 3 ingredients (moving, collaborating, using technology)! I try to include relevant songs/pop culture from summer, too
  • Students create mini posters about each other. “New school year starring…” then I have student work to hang on day one 
  • Student Bingo or Partner Introductions. Anything that gets students moving and talking to each other is great
  • 1st Day Goal: Get books into their hands that students can be excited about!
  • “Bring yourself in a box” in a new way. Set up a little museum of yourself, walk around, leave Post-It note questions.  Reply: I saw something similar, though the boxes are pulled out at random times in the year & students to guess whose box it is.  Reply: Also really cool! The next step in my version was to choose 1 question someone left for you and write to answer it
  • Love the use of the selfie – what a great way to start building a classroom community culture! 
  • To be honest, I’m not sure yet. Deciding on my theme first, and then figuring out how to tie in to my content
  • I hear you. Worked in inner city for a few yrs. I think blend of routines plus get to know you is key
  • I change this up a lot for some classes. Speech kids do bag speeches. Drama kids present “Don’t be Boring” 
  • I am thinking about using a @breakoutEDU as a team building during the 1st week
  • this year, I’m having students look at inspirational quotes and asking them to choose 1 as their “mantra” for the year
  • My fav activity was writing 3 hashtags to identify ourselves on dry erase and taking a pic to post in the hallway!

Q5: What will be your first content-based lesson of the year? 

  • We study Gilgamesh, so I start with Conrad’s Heoric Journey We’ll analyze different kids books before we delve into Gilgamesh 
  • 1st lesson will be a brand-new review of grammar high school students should know before we get INTO writing essays and reading
  • Planning on a few of things: theme, figurative language, story elements, & writing. Implementing reading/writing workshop for 1st time 
  • 1st content lesson will be reading, writing, speaking, listening using #growthmindset content is SKILLS
  • Setting the stage for workshop. Norms, what it looks like, my role, their role
  • Continue to get to know students & work on writing skills with writer’s workshop using coming of age poetry http://goo.gl/iSaOuU
  • My first content lesson will be on writing proper paragraphs so we can start article of the week the first week back 
  • I start lit classes off with why reading is important. Several short stories and essays
  • Close reading and probably setting up Reader’s Workshop!
    • What is Culture? Lesson. Building knowledge about the year’s theme
  • I do a name research/map activity that leads into a quick personal narrative
  • My first unit is writing memoirs/personal narratives. I want to know where each student is with writing so I know where to go! 
  • My Myths and Legends class gets to start with a unit on Urban Legends. SO fun, lol
  • First content lesson will be annotation using “Dystopia” poem–Our first novel is Cinder (Lunar Chronicles) 
  • Students will be learning the signposts from Notice & Note using short stories & info text. Thinking about having them blog about it 
  • I want to get started with a writer’s notebook and building good ideas
  • Modeling mentor sentence writing & then a close reading workshop
  • Cool idea. I’ve done six-word memoirs similarly and had students create them on @canva
  • Since I teach public speaking, it will be about how to get over stage fright 
  • After setting up reading/writing notebooks, introducing Notice and Note Signposts so that students can incorporate them all year
  • Will be working on reading skills from day one, but will start with Notice and Note as soon as possible! 
  • The first lesson will probably introduce argumentation and notice and note with AOTW – we hit argumentation hard in 11th grade

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  • Distinguished English
    July 20, 2016 at 2:22 am

    I have been meaning to attend this chat for days, and I completely forgot! Thanks so much for sharing the highlights. I love hearing everyone's ideas!