Capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm students (and you!) have at the start of the year — and plan middle school activities and your September lesson plans that will help you establish routines and set expectations for a successful year.
What will your September lesson plans look like?
The problem with September
We start the year with a bang — and a holiday!
But that’s not the real problem.
The problems is that we want to start teaching before we’ve set ourselves and our students up for a successful year.
Usually, we’re so excited to start teaching our content that we haven’t taken the time to establish the routines and structure that will set up great classroom management.
And you cannot underestimate the importance of strong classroom management that is established at the start of the year.
This doesn’t mean that you’re crabby or don’t smile…it means you have a plan for how your classroom runs — and your students know what that is! Clear and firm. You are the teacher and they are the students — and you each have a job to do.
So, before jumping into the most fun bts activity in the universe, make sure your students are on board with how your classroom will run this year. Otherwise, you will waste so much time, all year long, trying to establish that.
Take time to think about your “Best Practices” for your classroom.
Lesson plan themes for September
I love taking advantage of the funny and funky September holidays to generate curiosity and interesting middle school activities this month.
Here is a list of important and interesting holidays in September:
- “Happy Cat” month
- National Guide Dog month
- National Hispanic Heritage Month
Other interesting holidays include:
- Waffle Week & Substitute Teacher Appreciation Week (the first week of the month)
- Banned Book Week & Sea Otter Awareness (the last week)
- Random Acts of Kindness Day & World Letter Writing Day – Sept. 1
- Sept. 8 is National Ampersand Day (yeah, I couldn’t believe it either!)
- Roald Dahl Day is the 13th
- National Doodle Day is the 20th
- The 24th in National Punctuation Day (fun writing prompt on this site!)
- The fourth Saturday is READ in America Day
You can use these daily writing prompts to capitalize on quirky holidays and interesting facts.
The start of the year is a great opportunity to establish journal writing as a regular habit for your students.
But here’s the problem:
Often times journal prompts are boring and repetitive. Students quickly lose interest, and then there is the issue of reading and grading your students’ journals.
Mix it up! If you are using a “tried and true” journal prompt, keep it fresh by alternating it with other prompts you have.
Add some randomness! You can use these journal prompt sticks to provide some random choice to what students will write about.
Use visuals. There are so many great photographs you can quickly find online (like this one below). Don’t you wonder what this dog is looking at so intently? What is happening in this picture that the viewer can’t see?
Share a compelling image with your students and simply ask them to write about it.
Include a challenge. Could your students respond to a prompt without using any verbs of “to be” or words that include the letter “e”? Could they use every piece of punctuation (like the National Punctuation Day contest) or write every sentence as a question?
Adding a challenge is a great way to freshen up your journal prompts!
But don’t forget the ultimate question! How are you going to grade it?
In order to make journal writing meaningful, you do need to provide some kind of feedback or assessment.
One of the first things to include in your September lesson plans is to take a writing assessment.
Don’t panic! This doesn’t mean it’s for a grade! It’s simply a way to get to know your students and get a sample of the kind of writers they are.
Your teaching will be so much more effective when you know where your students are and what you need to do to get them to the next level. This post provides the steps to gathering effective, easy writing samples — and what to do with them.
What writing products should you start with?
Usually, we start with narrative writing since that is comfortable and familiar to most students. But you may also want to consider a personal memoir.
Why this works: Your students are already familiar with narrative writing, and a memoir requires more mature thought and retrospection. Middle school students are usually ready for this and enjoy the opportunity. You can find step-by-step help teaching the memoir here.
So many great habits start at the beginning of the school year when students are receptive and you are full of energy! And encouraging reading is an important middle school activities that is often short-changes with all the content we need to teach.
Incorporate Labor Day informational reading as a way for students to start practicing those important skills.
Check out this independent reading post that spells out the hows, whys, and whats of setting up and running an independent reading program with your class.
Your students will reap so many benefits when they read! And we know how hard it is for middle school students to make time to read — so we have to provide it for them. Even if it’s just a few minutes you carve out of your day.
Will your students be annotating texts this year? If so, don’t neglect the opportunity to teach this valuable reading skill to them. The start of the year is a perfect opportunity to give them practice and teach them the skills you want them to learn.
Speaking & listening
So often these are skills that we put off…we know they’re important, but how do we fit them in? But the start of the school year is the perfect time to incorporate opportunities for students to practice these skills.
- pair up students
- have them interview each other — you can provide a few simple questions like — tell me about your family, what are your hobbies, etc.
- have the students put together an introduction and introduce their partners to either the entire class or another pair of students
We know our students were talk grammar in the past…but why do they act like they’ve never seen it when we ask?!
While you don’t have to go through an intense grammar review at the start of the year, it is helpful for students to have grammar review notes.
Many middle school students know enough about grammar to read a review and recall what the concept is. It is also a great opportunity for them to take some control over their own learning — so looking up the notes and reviewing provides them with confidence.
Creating grammar notes in a resource notebook is also helpful. Students can create a document that will truly help them.
While incorporating research into your September lesson plans may feel too early to dig into a research project, here is an easy way to get students comfortable with primary research.
Have students interview a parent about how their name was chosen, what it means, or its significance. Students can then write a paragraph about what they discovered or create a one-pager to share what they learned.
Why? Primary research in the way of a personal interview is an important life skill. Think of the people we “interview” as we meet them…the interest we show in others is important!
And the plus? Students LOVE talking and learning about themselves!! This is a fun middle school activity that lets students dip into research without it feeling like a real research project…even though it is!
Want to take it a step further? Try this:
Ask students to find out what their names mean, or what happened on the day they were born, or what their name might be in another language.
Plan ahead for a sub
September is the perfect time to think about November, December, and January! Because that’s often when flu season hits.
Take a few hours to set up sub plans NOW so you’re ready if you need to miss school.
As you think about your September lesson plans, you may find these resources helpful:
Ready for conferences and meet the teacher?
If you’ll be hosting parent teacher conferences or a Parent’s Night, be sure to start gathering student samples and data right away. This makes planning for parent meetings so much easier.
And if you’re looking for additional teaching tips for Back to School — be sure to check out this post for top ten teaching tips to start the year!
Ready to start planning for October? You can find great teaching ideas here!
Wishing you a wonderful month!!