Resolutions abound in the new year, and the beginning of a new semester can represent a clean slate, as well. A new year naturally lends itself to rearranging, replacing, and rejuvenating.
FOUR SIMPLE TIPS TO BEGIN A NEW SEMESTER
Update bulletin boards and classroom walls
Introduce a new writing activity
Build on grammar skills
Students love returning to school and seeing something different from how they left their room. In this post about beginning a new semester, I’ve presented four tips on preparing for a new semester; let’s begin with the classroom walls and bulletin boards.
#1 UPDATING BULLETIN BOARDS AND CLASSROOM WALLS
In a prior post, “How To Motivate Students To Write (And Love It!)”, I discuss publishing student work. Kids love to see their work displayed around the room because it gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. It also helps break down walls between different classes and creates a sense of unity.
Why not use student work to design your next bulletin board? You can replace the background color on your bulletin board and title it by theme or by assignment name.
Considering prior student work, it is a good idea to keep model samples from year-to-year. As you begin each new unit, you can post student work from prior years to use as exemplar samples for students to see.
Also, freshen up your classroom by hanging new classroom posters. Hang posters and anchor charts that will support your semester's curriculum. Are you working on types of writing in the upcoming semester? Is high-stakes testing on the horizon? Your classroom walls should feature relevant content!
Keeping student work takes a level of organization. A new semester is a great time to examine your organization. Start by updating and organizing your supplies. Teachers love school supplies, and keeping an appropriate number on-hand is essential to success.
Before adding to your supplies, go through your filing cabinet and put things in order, tossing empty White-Out bottles and markers that no longer work. Clean out old files and folders. If you find student work for a unit or grade level you no longer teach, keep this in mind: if it’s something you simply cannot part with then put it in that place you keep precious keepsakes; otherwise, toss it.
#3 WELCOME STUDENTS BACK WITH A NEW YEAR WRITING ACTIVITY
After getting your room, supplies, and yourself organized, think about what you can do for the students as you begin the new year. By this time, your classroom culture should be well-established.
A great back-to-school writing activity for a new semester can be around goal-setting. Students have a baseline of grades and achievement on skills and assignments this year. What can they improve to increase their levels of achievement? Have them write about it.
This writing can take many forms, but if you want to post it around the room to keep your classroom walls alive with student work, hand each student an index card and have them write an academic goal on one side. On the other side, they can write their action plan about how they will achieve their goal. If you want to spice up their writing, have them create a non-linguistic representation of their goal and use four different colors to it.
Writing and grammar work in tandem. A fourth way to begin a new semester is to revisit grammar skills already taught. This is a great way to scaffold learning and link student thinking to old material before presenting new grammar skills.
For instance, if you taught the correct use of apostrophes, subject-verb agreement, and dependent clauses during the first semester, have students write their feelings toward beginning a new semester. You might tell students they must include a possessive noun, a plural possessive, and a dependent clause in their writing. Their subjects and verbs must match, as well. This writing would provide you with a quick formative assessment and it would provide a writing and grammar experience for the students.