Everything You Need for Back-to-School in Middle School E.L.A.
Updated: Aug 15
As I write this, we are going in full-time, normal (masked) in September. I really hope that remains true. This post will outline all the material I typically use in my first few weeks of school. I also have a blog post about specific activities I do in the first week (which is only a few days for me).
I've been digital since before the pandemic...not 100%, but a solid 90%, so I've been using all of this for a few years. I do plan on incorporating more paper, pencil, cutting, and coloring this year because it's so needed!
Here are some of my blog posts that will help you get your year started right:
If you click through my blog you will also find more posts about specific units I do!
I am not a big decor person. I usually just throw things together that match with some cute stuff I find in Target or Lakeshore. I don't like my room to be super busy or distracting...just cozy and welcoming.
Anyway, I did create this hallway bulletin board. I know a lot of teachers like to have hallway displays with the names of the students so this works for that!
This display below is actually a first week activity for me. If you've been reading my blogs regularly, you will know that I am huge fan of The Book Whisperer. A first week activity I like to do is to discuss the Rights of a Reader and how to care for books. I start with a reading unit...I don't really even discuss writing until our first writing unit.
We work together to build this bulletin board.
Full disclosure, I haven't done this next one with my students yet, but this is a digital collaborative poster that would work great as a door display. Students each get a piece of the puzzle on Google Slides and elaborate on what a good student and/or teacher is, says, does, and is not. This helps establish structure and routines, too! They can work together to match colors, designs, etc. You print out all the slides, cut out pieces, and they can put it all together like a puzzle. It is an interesting way to see how they work collaboratively in a digital way.
These posters below were drawn by my husband! I have these hanging up year round. Just a little something to spice up your classroom!
Not sure how many of you do word walls in middle school, but this below is a different approach. You can read more about it here. Students gather their own vocabulary words throughout the school year. They gather the words from their own independent reading books and can add them to this word wall based on emotion. This can help writers when they need new words to write. This picture has no words on it yet...but they'd add words with given word slips.
Templates / Material to be Used All Year
My district stopped purchasing paper agendas for students. I personally love agendas like those, but it was rare we'd find time to get to them. I created a digital agenda for students because they can easily bookmark it and fill it out quickly throughout the day! Click here to check it out.
This is for you to write your expectations for the year. I love having this on hand in case parents question anything later in the year ("As you read on the syllabus in September..."). It's a one-stop shop for students to see what is expected of them for the year. Here is where you can read about it.
Today in E.L.A. and Goals for the Day
I used this a TON during the pandemic. I posted this every single day on Google Classroom and Classtag (for parents). It may have been excessive for the parents but again, no one could question anything because they had access to it. I'd basically write what the students needed to have done for the day. This could also be used as something that can be displayed when an administrator comes in. Click the pictures to check them out.
This could replace above or be something students could create themselves to send home to parents. Perhaps this could even be used once a month or collaboratively with other teachers. Click here to get it or the pic.
These are the bread and butter of my grading. I do not give tests. I grade pretty much everything on a variety of rubrics. These can help you make your own. It's important to develop these right away so you can have them ready if a parent questions you (noticing a trend here? Parents will often question what you do if you are teaching reading and writing workshop. Best to be prepared!).
This one is my FREE rubric I use to assess reading responses.
Read my blog post all about this! I love this so much because it helps me track reading patterns across the year. This is also inspired by The Book Whisperer. It is also a great way for students to see their progress as I *try* to get them to read 40 books during the school year.
I usually premake a lot of their digital journals and this is one way to do so or keep it open-ended. It can be personalized in lots of ways and can be used all year.
This is for the tech-savvy. Students can organize all of their digital materials that they consistently use. This could also be used in elementary and you can make sections for each subject.
This form collects conference notes into Google Docs for individual students. It's a super quick way to keep track of these conferences. Using an add-on with the Form and a little prep, you have access to records in case you need to have a conference with a parent or admin about a student.
First Week / Day Activities
I don't have a ton of stuff for this because I use a lot of other people's ideas! My blog post deals with this a lot more. Here are a few things I've done:
Digital escape rooms are a fun way to get kids engaged. I use this to put important information about my class instead of just lecturing about it all. They travel around my room to investigate and solve puzzles all about E.L.A.
I've used this as a summer reading assessment and then continued using it throughout the school year. It's much more real-life way of analyzing texts then an old-school book report.
Show What You Know
This can be used to pose questions to the class. Students add their answers anonymously and their answers show up live on the Jamboard. It's great for those who are a bit shyer and not will to share outwardly. Great for stations.
Bitmojis are fun and students answer questions about themselves using Bitmojis. They'd have to have an actual Bitmoji to do this. My students unfortunately do not have access, so I may have them just search for images.
I love doing this because I learn so much about the students and what their interests are. It helps me get them into their first independent reading books. It also helps me pair students with similar interests.
Parent Contact Form
Another great Google Form to collect parent information. It provides you with parent preferences about contacting (phone or email?) and in the response sheet you can easily collect all email addresses for a mass email.
My First Units and Pacing Guide
Below, you will find the units that I use to kick off the school year. The first unit is Lucy Calkins' Deep Study of Character. What I love about this unit is that you can use ANY book or short story for this and it focuses on character development.
I follow up that unit with my fiction writing unit. Normally, personal narrative is done (which I have below, too), but I like to do fictional narratives. The narratives are based on stories read in class. I may change it up this year. Writing is therapeutic so I may try to connect these narratives with what is happening today. Not sure how yet!
Yes, these are all products...a few freebies. But, I spent hours, weeks, and days making these and actually USING them. You will use them for years to come and many can be edited and changed!