Hey there, fellow English teacher! If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post, chances are you are looking for ideas, inspiration, lesson plans, and guidance for the beginning of the school year. To help teachers everywhere, I’m writing a new blog series that explains how I plan and sequence my school year starting in the beginning of a brand new school year. This curriculum outline is ideal for grades 7-10.
The first week of school is crucial for building trust and establishing your classroom culture. That is why I like to spend a little bit of time getting to know my students, assessing their knowledge, and teaching some crucial information.
To begin with, I usually like to spend about three days getting to know my students and fostering a positive classroom culture. To do so, I use the resources in my Back to School Activities for Secondary Students and Growth Mindset Activities resources. Usually by the third day I like to begin assessing my students’ abilities, and this typically takes the form of a short narrative essay. I spend the last two days of the first week teaching students how to properly annotate text with my Annotating Text Made Easy lesson. I like to use this lesson in the beginning of the school year so that I can refer back to the close reading skills they gain during this lesson throughout the entire year.
For my first unit of the school year, I like to begin with short stories. Starting the year with short stories exposes students to literary devices and elements. For the first week of the short story unit, I typically begin with the shortest short story because there is some pre-loading that goes into this unit. Before we even read a short story in class, I teach students about short stories and literary devices using a PowerPoint lesson found in my Short Stories Unit. What I like about this unit is that it introduces students to the content, and it works with any short story. There are many organizers and creative assignments included in this resource as well.
When I teach short stories, I usually tend to focus on one or two literary elements and devices per story. Before we read, I give students vocabulary words, review important story context, and teach the focus literary element or device. Then we read the story, and I have them look for examples and quotes that show that particular device. After each short story, I have them write a paragraph that analyzes the short story, the author’s use of the device, and how the device contributes to the audience’s understanding of the story. I typically do not quiz my students on each short story, rather I assess their knowledge and understanding through these paragraphs.
One of my favorite short stories to teach is “The Most Dangerous Game.” This Close Reading Lesson and Writing Activity follows the format that I teach. It focuses on a particular literary device and includes a writing response. Since I teach short stories in the beginning of the year, I provide my students with sentence frames to help with the writing.
I wrap-up my short story unit with a fictional narrative. Throughout the first few weeks my students read and analyzed narratives, so I like to conclude this unit with a narrative of their own. We spend a couple days brainstorming their protagonist, antagonist, setting, conflict, and plot structure. The students sketch out their narrative essay and write their first draft. After a day of revision circles (peer editing done in small groups), students then publish their final draft using the feedback from their peers. I use the information in my Narrative Writing Unit to help with this final assessment.
On the last day of the unit, I typically assess my students with an end-of-unit test that includes all of the literary devices we covered and information from each of the stories. I also use this time in class while students are testing to begin grading their final drafts. Doing this helps reduce the time I spend on the weekends grading student papers.
After teaching short stories for the first unit, my students are ready to move on to a longer text!
What do your first six weeks of the school year look like?