Brain Waves Instruction Goes Back to School

I'm blog hopping with some awesome secondary ELA teacher-authors from The Literary League today.

Everyone's sharing a bit about themselves and their teaching experiences, a favorite novel, and a favorite get-to-know-you back to school activity for the first days of school.  I don't know about you, but I'm super psyched to read all the other blog posts from the Literary League members.  (So, I won't be offended if you just skim over my post below and skip right to checking out the others' posts...after all, I can hardly wait myself!)

OK...if you're still reading, let's get started.  The first element of this blog hop is sharing about ourselves.  I'm going to make this pretty brief...mostly because I'm pretty boring. 

For my entire life I've wanted to be a teacher...and I've had lots of fun teaching lots of awesome kids (mostly adolescents) in different states and countries (Belize, Africa, and England --- see pics below).  

The majority of my teaching career has been in the middle school classroom and I love it!  Middle schoolers keep me humble --- they tell me when my outfit is horrible.  They make me laugh -- they call concrete poetry "cement poetry."  They make me proud -- they take risks and grow every day.  They're pretty great!

Aside from feeling happy in the classroom, I also love having adventures with my boys (two + one husband).  I'm crazy about home design, finding a great deal (on anything), laughing with friends, traveling to new places, escaping into a great book, writing curriculum, and eating dessert!

 Now, let's talk books.  Teachers are always on the hunt for a great classroom novel, right?  Well, if you haven't read Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, you might want to give it a try.  It's a page-turner about a troubled teenager.  I love reading this book aloud to students (when they're doing their bell work) or teaching this book in small groups.  It's an especially wonderful book because it turns even the most reluctant readers into engaged readers.  It's a must-read...or must-teach!

And, now let's talk about Back to School!  One of my favorite get-to-know-you activities is to have students create name tags with a twist.  The twist part is that the name tags are also a way to get to know students.  

First, students complete a survey about themselves.  Then, they color in the name tag with specific colors based on their answers to the survey.  Finally, they fill in their name and assemble their name tag.  Once the name tags are made it's fun to have students find classmates with name tags that are super similar to their's or name tags that are very different.  When the name tags are on students' desks they're great for learning kids' names...and the added bonus is that there's a little inspiration on the back of the name tag for students to look at.  It's simple, interactive, and functional!

You can find FREE copies of this back to school activity in my 5 SIMPLE WAYS to PREPARE for BACK to SCHOOL blog post.

Thanks for stopping by!

Well, that's it for sure to check out these great teacher-authors...

5 Simple Ways to Prepare for Back to School

 In some ways I feel like teachers are always preparing for a new school year.  We're a profession of planners.  Daily, we write intricate instructional plans.  While teaching a unit, we're thinking of ways to improve the instruction during the next school year.  During our well deserved summer break, we're seeking new ways to teach.  We care about our work.  That's why it's no surprise that I have back to school on my mind already.  Today, I thought I'd share some of the easy ways I prepare for the beginning of a new school year.

A few weeks before school starts I love to send a letter to my students.  I keep it fairly simple.  However, I believe that a note about the upcoming school year not only shows my students that I'm excited about teaching them, but that I take learning seriously.  In my letter I like to give students an insight into what they'll be learning and how I like to structure my classroom.  I also mention the critical role of parents in their success.  Finally, I try to infuse a little excitement.  Year after year I've found that my students and parents appreciate the back to school letter.   It's a powerful first-impression-maker!

Find a sample Back to School Letter HERE.

What's back to school without a little instructional planning?  I carve out some time each summer to put together some long-range plans.  When completing long-range plans sometimes I list out the critical skills I want students to master during the school  year.  Then, I build the units of study around those skills.  Other times, I list out the major units of study for a year and consider the critical skills for each unit.  After I make a huge list of learning, I number the units and put them in the order I plan to teach them during the school year.  Next, I take a look at the units I want to teach in the first quarter and begin to map out a 10-week plan.  I've found that long-range planning is a great way to start any school year.

Find these planning guides for FREE HERE.

Another simple way to prepare for back to school is to plan a fun and engaging get-to-know-you activity for students.  I like to plan something that students can complete all by themselves when they enter the classroom.  That's why I'm nuts about these back to school name tags.  Each year I place the directions and crayons or colored pencils at students' tables.  Then, they get to work coloring in their name tag based on their answers to the "about you" questions.  In just a few minutes they have a completed name tag and I have a way to learn each of their names!  Love it!

Click HERE for a free copy of the back to school name tags.

Just like everything else, I like to make decorating the classroom for back to school super simple.  So, I've created some classroom decor posters that I can string along a classroom clothesline or staple to a bulletin board.  I especially love these posters because I've created a writing prompt that coordinates with the decor.  You can read all about these posters and find a link to them for FREE here.
Summer is a great time to come up with ways to solve common classroom problems.  I've used my summer days to figure out ways to set up seating charts, find a solution for kids without pens or pencils, make durable bathroom passes, design classroom displays, and manage handing back papers.  You can read all about the ways I like to solve classroom problems HERE

Well, that's it for now.  I hope you've found some simple ways to make your back to school preparations easier.  Don't forget, you can find the back to school resources mentioned in this post for FREE HERE!

Thanks for stopping by!

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