I cant believe school starts back NEXT week here in Georgia! Are you also starting back soon? If you are anything like me, even if you have a few more weeks left, you are already planning out your start to the year. Those first couple of weeks are crucial to starting out and (hopefully) staying on top of things all year. Here are the top 4 things I like to do with my high schoolers.
I love these name tents from Spark Creativity. For the first week, I give them back each day and at the end of class, I ask them to write on the back- ask a question, share something they are worried about, share something they are excited about, etc. I take the time to reply to each one. This often shocks them and sets up that expectation that I will always take the time to hear them out about anything.
On Mondays (all year long), I like to give some space to address mental and emotional health for all of us. Mondays can be chaotic to begin with, so starting our class with a few minutes of meditation, going out in the sunshine, playing with sensory items (like Play Dough), etc. does so much for my high schoolers. I highly recommend setting aside 10 minutes once a week to teach your kids how critical it is to focus on our mentality.
One fantastic (and free) resource I use all the time and suggest is the Calm app! If you want to share it with your students, you can just pop on Calm.com. They even have some great guided meditations for teens.
I even turned this amazing podcast episode with Jay Shetty into a weeklong mindfulness activity. I love that it is also tied to our ELA standards of listening and writing!
Setting Up For Success
When I first started at my school, the 10th grade team started out the year making Lit Term reference books of 100 Lit Terms.
Honestly, it was awful.
Most of the terms they would never actually use and they had to use their cell phones the entire time to look them up. Having students be on their cell phones 100% of the time the first 2 weeks is just a recipe for disaster.
The next year I switched to my Archetypes Reference (you can click here to see another blog post specifically on this activity) books activity and it made all the difference! It’s engaging from the get-go, gets used all year long, and my students always say that by the end of the year it had truly deepened their analysis abilities.
Start of the Year Unit of Study
After we have gotten a good handle on archetypes, we dive head first into our first unit of the year where we examine mythological heroes around the world. Starting from Ancient Greece and ending with modern comic book heroes.
We center our study on how our heroes and their villains show the best and the worst of the culture and their societal values. This study also scaffolds my students as they work on their first PBL project of the year.
I connect my students with an elementary class (or two) and they work with the elementary students to create a new heroic story. The elementary students provide feedback on the stories to my students on how well they hit their objective- entertain young children with a unique hero that reflects today’s societal values.
Connecting my students with the real world audience makes ALL the difference!
In case you missed it, I recently wrote two blog posts that go into more detail about how I cover these mythological heroes and villains. Check them out for more inspiration!
To make things easy, you can also check out this bundle that has most of the above all together AND 20% off!
Take Your PBL To The Next Level!
I have been toying with the idea of having a teacher monthly membership (think Netflix) just for secondary English teachers who want to have a highly engaging PBL curriculum in their classroom.
I would love to invite you into my beta group to try out this idea with this unit!
After you purchase the unit, then head on over to the private Facebook group to get instant access to live videos, Q&As, and fishbowl coaching on how to help you be 100% successful.
There we will spend the next few weeks diving into the unit, the PBL project you can weave into it, strategies to connect your students with their intended audience for the project, and how to make it all work for YOUR classroom! No further financial commitments at all!
Easy peezy, lemon squeezy!
I hope this has inspired you in some way and you are bursting with ideas of all the possibilities that lie ahead this year!