Favorite Back to School Activities

Ready to "cook up" a great first day of school? Check out this easy recipe filled with ideas and activities for back to school!

Ready to "cook up" a great first day of school? It's easy with this recipe for a successful start to the school year!

➤ Think about how you will set the tone for your classroom on the first day of school.
➤ Plan to keep students engaged and active.
➤ Prepare to build a positive rapport with students from the first instant that they become a part of the classroom community.

➤ Warm-Up Activity
➤ Get-to-Know-You Activity
➤ Game that gets students out of their seats
➤ Get-to-Know-the-Teacher Activity
➤ Writing Prompt
➤ Extension Activity

Once you've gathered your ingredients, you can get "cooking!" 


STEP 1: Begin with a warm-up activity. Place an activity on students' desks that they can complete independently. 

You might try a simple survey or poster. An All About Me poster is a quick way to learn about students. You can even gather them together for an awesome classroom display. 

Or, a survey is a wonderful way to collect information about students. You might include questions about where students like to sit, their favorite way to learn, and activities that they enjoy so that you can start connecting with students.

Back to school warm up activity that you can place on students' desks. The All About Me Poster is great for getting to know students. The student survey is perfect for back to school.

Another awesome warm-up activity is an "All About You" name tag. Students answer questions about themselves while coloring in a name tag based on their responses. Then, students can place the name tag on their desks to help you learn your students' names. This activity is particularly awesome if you have multiple sets of students. You can collect the name tags and re-distribute them each day during each class while you learn names. 

Oh, and as a bonus, you can gather them together and leave them with substitute teachers throughout the year!

If you'd like to check out ready-made Back to School Warm-Ups, just click here for the poster, here for the survey, and here for the name tags.

STEP 2: Mix in a get-to-know-you activity. Give students a chance to share about themselves and learn about their classmates with an engaging get-to-know-you activity. 

One of my favorites is a doodle-inspired mini-book. Students transform a single sheet of paper into a doodley mini-book all about themselves. After students make the mini-book it's fun to hang them on a clothesline. Then, as students finish their work during the first days of school, you can encourage fast-finishers to grab a classmate's mini-book and learn about him or her.  

Students love this hands-on and doodle mini-book. They answer questions about themselves and then they create a doodle mini-book. It's a great first day of school activity!

Check out the doodle mini-book HERE.

STEP 3: Scatter in an activity that gets students moving. Since students crave opportunities to get up and out of their seats, plan to get your class moving on the first day of school. You might have students complete a scavenger hunt or even play a learning game that requires students to move around.

I'm a huge fan of this simple get-to-know-you activity that gets students moving (and you can download it for FREE here.) 

First, students make paper airplanes. They write their name and 3 interview questions on the wings. Then, students line up shoulder-to-shoulder and launch the planes. Next, they pick up a classmate's plane, find him or her, and ask the interview questions. You can repeat the airplane launch as often as you'd like! 

Find everything you need to do this activity in this FREEBIE. 

 STEP 4: Sprinkle in a chance for students to get-to-know-you (their teacher). On the first day of school, students are very curious about you. They want to learn about you, so you'll want to be sure to share about yourself. You can give a simple biography of yourself, or you might try these easy and engaging activities:

Create a teacher interview question along with 4 or 5 prize cards for each student in your class. Then, tape the questions and the prize cards under students' seats before class begins. During class, explain to students that they all have something under their chairs. It might be a question and it might be a prize. If they get a prize card, have students keep it quiet. Then, call on students. They can either read a question for you to answer or reveal that they won a prize. If they won, you might give them a pencil, piece of candy, or a homework pass. You can find all my favorite questions HERE.

Great for any classroom, this back to school activity helps students learn about their teacher. Fun and engaging!

Or, you might have students complete a "Teacher Guess" about you. First, they predict the answers to questions about you. Then, as you reveal the answers, they earn points for every correct prediction. It's a fun activity that students truly enjoy! You can check it out HERE.

Help students get to know their teacher with this fun back to school activity!

 STEP 5: Add a fun writing prompt to your back to school activities. A writing prompt is a great way to gather a baseline for students' writing on the first day of school. You might give students a simple prompt about their summer or goals for the new school year. However, I love to add a fun creative writing prompt into the mix. 

For example, with this writing prompt students select a setting, character, problem, and 3 random objects. Then, they need to work them all into a story. It's fun, engaging, and a great way to see where your students are starting the school year. 

Here's a great writing prompt for the first day of school. Students love this fun creative writing task!

Find this writing prompt HERE or check out this collection 

STEP 6: Top it off with a review of tomorrow's warm-up. Set students up for success during your next day of school by quickly reviewing what they will need to do when they arrive to class. If you're planning to have students work through warm-ups like these This or That ELA warm-ups where students choose to do the "this" or the "that" activity, then you might quickly review what will be waiting on their desks when they arrive. 

Taking the time to preview tomorrow's warm-up is a great way to set expectations for students! If you're looking for some daily warm-ups, you might want to check out these This or That ELA warm-ups or these This or That Writing warm-ups!

STEP 7: Don't forget to have an extension activity just in case your lesson ends early. I love playing games like "Move If You..." which you can find for FREE HERE. While you may never get to the extension activity, it's a lifesaver if you need it!

When you're following this recipe for a great first day of school, you might want to:

➤ Greet students at the door and answer these questions for students right away:
       ➨ Where do I sit?
       ➨ Am I in the right classroom?
       ➨ What should I be doing right now?

➤ Also, be prepared to manage students' behavior on the first day of school. Ensure that you have a positive classroom management system in place and ready to use if you need it!

Well, there you have it, my recipe for a great first day of school. Be sure to download all the ideas with links AND the FREE airplane activity HERE!

Thanks so much for stopping by,
Mary Beth

Round Up of My Favorite End of the Year Lessons & Activities

Check out this collection of activities for the end of the school year. You'll find free lessons for the end of the year and tons of ideas for ending the school year with a bang!

Before you know it, it'll be time to say goodbye to your students as they head off into summer. With the last day of school rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share my favorite ways to make the most of the end of the school year. (I've also filled this post with some exclusive freebies! So exciting!)

Here's a quick listing of the ideas I'm going to share today:

➧ Unit to teach:  Roller Coaster Persuasive Writing Unit
➧ Gifts for students:  Motivational Gifts for Students
➧ Whole-class review:  Grammar Escape Rooms (with a twist)
➧ Doodle reflection:  End of the Year Doodle Suitcase or Locker
➧ Freebie: Accordion Book Reflection
➧ Summer reading project (and FREEBIE): Summer Reading Project
➧ Free plan books: May and June
➧ Summer school lessons: Resources for Summer School
➧ Free Teacher Challenge: FREE 30-Day Challenge

End of the Year Unit to Teach: Persuasive Writing Unit

This is a super fun and engaging end of the year writing unit. Students design roller coasters and then write persuasive ads for their coasters. So fun!

This is my FAVORITE end-of-the-year writing unit! During the ten-day unit, students design a roller coaster (after learning about their history and vocabulary). Then, they design their own roller coaster. Finally, students write persuasive advertisements for their coasters. I promise, your students will LOVE this motivating unit!

End of the Year Gifts for Students
Check out this collection of easy to make end of the year gifts for students!

If you're looking for some ready-made gifts for students, check out this set of 3 simple and inspiring gifts for students. There are motivational posters, inspirational quote cards, and personalized note pockets. Each is designed to be easy to create and wonderful to keep. You can give every student all 3 gifts or make one set of the gifts for your entire class!

Whole Class Review: Grammar Art Escapes

These escape rooms that I created with Art with Jenny K. are so much fun! They are the perfect way to keep students learning and engaged during the last days of school!  Students work together to recover a stolen masterpiece while reviewing critical grammar skills. There are 3 different escape rooms to choose from - Mona Lisa, The Frame, or Starry Night. Or, save with the bundle. Great news! We've put together an EXCLUSIVE FREE SET OF MASTERPIECE COLORING PAGES for you!

End of the Year Doodle Reflection

This end of the year activity is all about reflection and fun! Students will be creating a doodle locker or suitcase filled with memories and lessons from their school year.

Here's an end of the year reflection that your students will love! First, they complete a guided reflection about the school year. Then, they fill a doodle suitcase or doodle locker with their memories. The end result is a meaningful and interactive year in review! 
This end of the year activity is all about reflection and fun! Students will be creating a doodle locker filled with memories and lessons from their school year.

Find the suitcase here and the locker here.

Summer Reading Projects

Help students enhance and retain their reading skills this summer with this super engaging summer reading project! In it, students will read a book and complete a creative and engaging file folder reading project to demonstrate their understanding of the book they read.
Keep students reading and learning all summer long with print-and-go summer reading projects. In the File Folder Summer Reading project students record all their learning in a single manila folder. It's a hit with students and teachers. Or, you might want to check out this summer reading project where students create a newspaper about their book.

AND...if you'd like to send students home with a reading tracker to log their reading over the summer, I've created a FREE one just for you! 
Help students track their reading with this free and interactive reading tracker!
You can download the free reading tracker and log here.

Free End of the Year Activity

Looking for a hands-on and fun end-of-the-year activity? Well, look no further! This end of the year lesson will not only help students practice the critical skill of reflecting, they’ll also create an interactive accordion book to showcase their thoughts and ideas.

Here's a freebie that is perfect for the end of the year. First, students complete a reflection. They'll consider highlights, challenges, lessons, and even look to the future. Then, they can put together a fun accordion book. This is a great activity for the last days of school!

Free Virtual Plan Books

Check out this collection of free lessons virtual plan books for every month of the year!

If you love collecting teaching ideas and tips, then be sure to check out the virtual plan books in my shop. They're FREE! Each is filled with tips, tricks, and even a quote poster! 

Here are two that you might need as the year draws to an end:

Summer School Resources

Teaching summer school? No problem! I've got summer school lesson plans for the first days of summer school. There's units for teaching ELA in summer school, too!

Have you signed up to teach summer school? If so, I've got a few lifesavers for you!

➧ First Day of Summer School
➧ Summer Poetry Analysis
➧ Summer Reading Project
➧ 6 Week Summer School Curriculum

30-Day Teacher Challenge

Rachael from The Classroom Nook and I have teamed up again to create a FREE 30-Day Teacher Challenge. The challenge is filled with hundreds of ideas for planning out your next school year. It starts in July, but I wanted to give you a chance to sign up right HERE. If you participated last summer, be sure to sign up again because this year we have so much MORE!

I hope you've found a few resources to teach during the remaining days of the school year!

Here's a round-up of the links again:
➧ Gifts for students:  Motivational Gifts for Students
➧ Whole-class review:  Grammar Escape Rooms (with a twist)
➧ Doodle reflection:  End of the Year Doodle Suitcase or Locker
➧ Summer reading project (and FREEBIE): Summer Reading Project
➧ Free plan books: May and June
➧ Summer school lessons: Resources for Summer School
➧ Free Teacher Challenge: FREE 30-Day Challenge

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Mary Beth

3 Easy Ways to Make Poetry More Fun!

Why does poetry have such a bad rap? In my experience, every time that I would mention poetry to students, their response was always a deafening protest.  Every year, it makes me wonder:  why are students so averse to learning how to read, analyze and write poetry? 

There seems to be a massive misconception about poetry among students (and maybe teachers too). Poetry is often perceived as this mythical type of literature that only the most gifted and insightful can interpret and create.  But, it's not!  Sure, there are some challenging pieces of poetry, but there are so many wonderful ways to make poetry FUN!  Here are just a few ideas...

CREATE A POETRY CULTURE:  One simple way to make poetry less intimidating is to make poetry a normal part of your classroom. Expose students to poetry all year long, not just during a poetry unit. You can do this by reading poems out loud to students throughout the school year, displaying poems as part of morning work, copying fun poems and hanging them on students' lockers or desks, or creating a collection of poems that students can read once a week during the school year. 

Check out some of my favorite poems to share with students:
➧ A poem for inspiration: "If" by Rudyard Kipling
➧ A seasonal poem: "Jack Frost" by Gabriel Setoun
➧ A holiday poem: "Mr. Macklin's Jack O'Lantern" by David McCord (Find a FREE lesson for this poem HERE.)

Free poetry lesson for Mr. Macklin's Jack O'Lantern. Perfect way to celebrate Halloween with poetry!

Don't worry, I've compiled a list of the poems I'm highlighting with clickable links in this exclusive FREEBIE!

CELEBRATE THE FREEDOM OF POETRY:  One of the coolest parts about poetry is that there are NO RULES! Poets have absolute freedom to write about whatever they want, however they want. No grammar rules. No rules about form or structure. No mechanics rules. And if you like, no spelling rules! Students love this! It's their chance to rebel against conventions.

During a poetry writing unit, I love to take this idea a bit further and encourage students to be unconventional with WHERE they write their poems, too. That means that they might write their haiku poem on a rock, or a cinquain on a basketball, or a free verse poem on the bottom of an old sneaker. It's so much fun to revel in the freedom of poetry!

Here are some great poems to illustrate the freedom of poetry:
➧ "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
➧ "How to Eat a Plum" by Eve Merriam
➧ "I(a" by e.e. Cummings

You can find links to the poem and even a BONUS poetry writing lesson in this FREEBIE!

READ FUNNY POEMS WITH STUDENTS:  Help students find joy in poetry by reading funny poems to students...or challenge students to find a funny poem to read to the class. Laughter and silliness are the perfect way to get students excited about reading and writing poems.

Here are some of my favorites:
➧ "Fifteen, Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About" by Judith Viorst
➧  "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll
➧  "Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face" by Jack Prelutsky
➧  "Sick" by Shel Silverstein

There you have it...3 really simple ways to make poetry more fun. Be sure to download the free lesson and all the poem links HERE.

I hope you'll add a little more poetry to your classroom!

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Mary Beth

P.S. Here are some of my favorite poetry units to teach!

And here's a video that you may enjoy...

Persuasive Writing Topics and Lesson Ideas

Persuasive writing lesson ideas for grades 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Did you know that researchers have found that children's persuasive writing abilities develop more slowly than any other genre (Applebee, Langer, & Mullins, 1986)?  That means that it is essential that we get students writing persuasively as often as possible. One of the best ways to motivate students to write persuasively is with really fun and engaging writing topics.  In addition, when we give students different types of ways to write persuasively from speeches to critical reviews, we can really engage students.  

In the spirit of getting students writing, I've compiled 15 of my favorite topics and styles of persuasive writing. These ideas are sure to get your students excited about writing persuasively!

Students are bombarded with advertisements in their daily lives.  So why not capitalize on their experiences with advertising and get them writing their own ads?  When students write persuasive advertisements they're able to infuse the critical components of advertising like a memorable name, special features, and persuasive words and phrases into advertisements designed to get readers to do or buy something. 

Here are a few persuasive advertisement topics:

1.  Have students design a new product.  They love this!  It can be anything from a new type of sneaker to a machine that does a household chore.  Then, have students develop ads to convince people to buy their products. 

Students write persuasive ads about a fun product that they designed and created!

2.  Challenge students to write a commercial that provides positive information about a person or service.  Since commercials use persuasive language and advertising techniques, they're perfect for developing students' writing skills.  As an added challenge, commercials need to be 30-60 seconds long, so they encourage students to write concisely.

3.  Combine two things students know a lot about:  roller coasters and advertisements with this next idea.  First, develop background knowledge on roller coasters.  Then, have students design their own coaster.  So fun!  Finally, have students write persuasive ads about their coasters that convince people to give them a try.  

Speeches are naturally written to convince others to do, buy, or be something.  So, why not give students a chance to write their own persuasive speeches?  Here are a few ways:

4. Set up fictional or real elections for roles in your classroom or school.  Determine the different types of positions that students will be trying to persuade others to nominate them for.  Then, have students write campaign speeches to convince their classmates that they're the best person for the job.

5.  Combine research with growth mindset and speeches!  Have students research important leaders and change-makers in the world.  While researching, have students determine how their subject demonstrated a growth mindset.  Then, lead students through developing persuasive speeches that not only teach about their subject, but also convince their listeners that their subject used a growth mindset to succeed.

During this project, students will first learn about growth mindset by reading an informational article about Carol Dweck’s work. Then, they’ll select a famous person in history with a growth mindset.

6.  Along the same lines as the growth mindset topic, create an award that students need to convince others that their research topic should earn.  For instance, students might research a president and write a persuasive speech about why he should win the "Best Leader of the 20th Century Award" like in this detailed unit.  Or you might have students write persuasive speeches about the person they deem to be the "Best Athlete of All Time" or the "Greatest Singer in this Decade."  The options are endless!

In this unit, students learn about the nonfiction genre of speeches, analyze four historic speeches, develop skills in writing short answer responses, conduct mini-research projects, write a persuasive speech based on their research, and present their speeches to the class.

Persuasive letters are a great way to help students develop their writing skills and learn about the critical components of letter writing.  Once students write their letters, they can even send their writing to the actual people or organizations that they are addressing.  This make their learning even more authentic.  Here are a few persuasive letter ideas:

7.  Have students write persuasive letters to a company that they love.  In their letter, they'll need to persuade the company to improve or create a new version of one of their favorite products.  For instance, students might write to a skateboard company and persuade them to alter the wheels of the boards.  

8.  Task students to write persuasive letters to the principal or school board. They should take on a school issue (anything from school start time to uniforms to cafeteria food).  Then, after researching the benefits of their opinion, they should write a letter to a school leader persuading him or her to make a change. This  Opinion Writing Unit is designed to help students complete this task.

In this engaging 10-day opinion writing unit students write a business letter about a school issue. Writing as a concerned student, students will write a letter to their principal (that they do not necessarily need to send to him/her) based on their opinions.

9.  Since students are typically good at persuading their parents to buy them things or let them do things, why not have them write persuasive letters to their parents?  A fun idea is to have students write persuasive letters explaining to their parents why they should no longer have to do a particular chore in their home.  As you can imagine, students get really into this!

The persuasive essay is a great way to get students to argue about topics that they have strong beliefs and opinions about.  One key to great persuasive essays in ensuring that students have topics that they truly care about.  That's why you might have students write persuasive essays about:

10.  Sports - Have students consider topics like "Is professional football too dangerous for players?" or "Should boys and girls play on the same sports team?"

11.  Animals - Students might write persuasive essays stating that pets should be allowed in all public spaces or animal testing should be completely eliminated.

12.  School issues - Since students are experts at being students, they often have opinions about topics like school starting later, summer being longer, or homework being eliminated.

Reviews and critiques are a super engaging way to get students writing persuasively.  When students review movies, books, performances or products, they need to convince the reader to either give it a try or skip it completely.  Give students a chance to write a critical review with these ideas:

13.  Add a persuasive review to students' next book report.  After students report out on the book's plot, setting, characters, and theme, have them write a persuasive review about the book.  They could even add persuasive components to this FREE standard book talk.
Take book reports and book projects to a whole new level with this super fun Doodle Book Review! First, students complete a step-by-step planning guide. They’ll reflect on the book’s characters, plot, setting, and theme.

14.  Since students love watching movies and television shows, challenge students to write a persuasive review about something they enjoyed watching.  Challenge them to convince others to watch their favorite movie or show, too.

15.  Have students write a persuasive review about a product (like a toy, school supply, article of clothing or food).  You could even bring in a selection of different sweet treats for students to try.  Then, they could write a persuasive review about the best cookie or candy.

Well, there you have it, 15 of my favorite persuasive writing topics and ideas.  I hope I've persuaded you to give at least one of them a try!

Thanks for stopping by,

Mary Beth

P.S. Find turn-key persuasive writing units here:

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