Back to School Planning with #2ndaryELA

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about back to school planning.
Brynn Allison, The Literary Maven, & Lisa Spangler, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, host #2ndaryELA on Twitter every Sunday evening from 8 - 8:30 PM EST. #2ndaryELA is a weekly chat for secondary English Language Arts teachers focused on a topic. Every Friday, we post the topic and questions on our blogs to allow you to prepare for the upcoming Sunday evening's chat. Thank you to everyone who joined us last year and we hope that you will join us again.

We'd also love for you to join our 2ndaryELA Facebook group, even if you aren't on Twitter. 2ndaryELA is a group of middle and high school English Language Arts teachers looking to share ideas and best practices. This group is an extension of our Twitter chat and a place for collaboration, questions, and encouragement. Feel free to post teaching ideas, success stories, resource links, photos, etc. that will enhance our instruction.

On Sunday, July 28, our #2ndaryELA chat will be about back to school planning.

Join secondary English Language Arts teachers Sunday evenings at 8 pm EST on Twitter. This week's chat will be about back to school planning.

The Directions:
1. Log into Twitter on Sunday from 8-8:30 PM EST.
2. Search for tweets with the hashtag #2ndaryELA in the search bar. Make sure to click “Latest.”
3. Introductions are for the first 5 minutes.
4. Starting at 8:05 (@literarymaven or @spanglermiddle) will post questions every 5 minutes using the format Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. and the hashtag #2ndaryELA.
5. Respond to questions using the format A1, A2, A3, etc. with #2ndaryELA.
6. Follow any teachers responding and who are also using #2ndaryELA.
7. Like and respond to other teachers' tweets.

You can schedule your responses to the questions ahead of time using a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite (but don't forget to use A1, A2, etc. and #2ndaryELA). Links are encouraged as well as using images is also encouraged when relevant.

New to chats? Here are the rules:
1. Stay on topic & stay positive!
2. Please do not post or promote paid products unless specifically asked.
3. If you arrive late, try to look through other posts before beginning.
4. Feel free to just read, like, and/or retweet.
5. Always use our hashtag #2ndaryELA, including in your replies to others.
6. Make sure your twitter feed is set to public. (Also keep in mind that Twitter is completely public – that means students, parents, and administrators can and will read what you tweet.)

You can also check out a quick video tutorial in this blog post.

Be sure to spread the word to any teacher friends who might be interested in joining us as well. We look forward to chatting with you Sunday evening and in our 2ndaryELA Facebook group!

Get caught up on past chats here:

Top 3 Hacks for Back To Middle School


The top 3 things that I do to start back to school off on the right foot and set the tone for the rest of the year! #teaching #middleschool #firstday



If you're like me, it can be hard to go back to school. The summer days have been lazy and relaxing and now to have shift those gears into school mode means I'll need a little oil to get them going!  That's why I've put together the top 3 things that I do to start back to school off on the right foot and set the tone for the rest of the year!


1.  Foster Relationships To Create Classroom Community



Creating a positive culture in a middle school classroom is a MUST!  Get some ideas on how to achieve this!  #teaching #backtoschool

Relationships are based on the idea of  "seeking to understand before being understood"  There are 3 ways I do this every year in my classroom:  learn names ASAP, offer opportunities to share (that are displayed in the room) , and create class "agreements" instead of rules.  Each one of these important acts lets students know they are valued and that your room is a good place to be.



Yes, I use picture books in middle school!  Find out how they help me build relationships! #teaching #backtoschool

Next, I try to build on those relationships to form a community.  I do this by using the picture book "You're Here for a Reason" to spark a conversation that focuses in on what our target as a class will be.  I connect that to what students want to be known for and how we can help each other in this journey.  You might expect the students to give you silly answers, but if you sit in a circle where everyone takes a turn, the results are pretty powerful.



2.  Create A Positive Management Culture

Want better classroom management?  Try creating agreements instead of rules!  #teaching #middleschool #backtoschool

We all know that for rules to work, there has to be "buy-in" from the students.  But how do you get "buy-in"?  

By making students part of the process and having them tell you what is needed for them to be successful.   

I'm pretty sure you will agree with almost everything they share.  So it will be easy for you all to agree on what the students need to be successful.

Now instead of "rules" you have agreements!  But what if your students don't live up to their end of the agreement?


You can hold middle school students accountable without punishing yourself!  Find out how!  #teachers #classroommanagement

Even though you have done your best to foster a positive classroom culture, there are some students who will need more time to reflect on their part in this during a detention.  But detention does not have to be on the teacher's time - send home the detention with a take-home detention composition that the student copies at home!  The composition is pre-written and explains the misdeed, why it's inappropriate, and how to correct it for the future.  It saves you time and exasperation!

3.  The First Week Back To School


Your room is ready, but what will you do with your middle school students that's fun, engaging and helps build relationships?  Get some ideas here!  #teaching #backtoschool #firstday

Your room is ready, you've attended all the meetings, and the first day is imminent, but what what should you do on that first day?  Should you just hand out the syllabus and jump into the content?  

I say "Not exactly."  Instead I have laid out a 5 day plan for getting to know your students, creating agreements, going over the syllabus, doing something mildly academic and participating in active tasks.

Save the content for the second week of school because honestly, students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.  :)

I hope this gives you a hack or two that you can use as you return back to middle school.

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The First Week of Middle School


Wondering what to do with your new middle school classes during that first week of school?  Find out here! #backtoschool #firstday #forteachers



I have a friend whose daughter is going to be teaching for the first time this coming fall.  The daughter called me and said "I will be teaching Science and I know all about that but what do I do on the first day of school?  Just go over the syllabus?"

I'll be honest, that was like the sound of nails down the chalkboard to me.  So I put on my most kind teacher voice and said "I would suggest that you save the syllabus for about the third day because the students will not care how much you know until they know how much you care."  
"Oh.  <pause>  So how do I do that?"


1.  First Day of School

On the first day, I greet everyone at the door and say things like "Good morning!  Glad you're here!"  "Welcome to 7th grade Language Arts!"  "Good to have you!"  "Hi, Welcome!"

Ideas for the first day back to school and the rest of the week!  #middleschool #forteachersThen after the bell rings, I do some kind of getting to know you activity like the "TP Pass".  This is where I pass a roll of toilet paper around and ask each person to take "some".  Then for each square a person has taken, they have to share one fact about themselves.  I always go first with at least 5 squares to give students ideas of what they might want to share.  I even make a list of these ideas on the board.

Next, I might have them make something that has their name and things that are important to them on it.  I have had students make paper t-shirts, sports cards, name tents, and other things.    
(These are perfect to display for Open House!)


2.  Day Two

Now it's time to talk about "rules" a little bit.  I actually do something called creating agreements.  If you click on that link, you'll get a very detailed post on that concept but to summarize here,  today all students get 2 post-it notes.  On one note I ask them to write down one thing THEY need to be successful.  On the other note I ask them to write down one thing that they need from ME to be successful.  Then I ask them to stick them to the two sides of the board.

A BINGO getting to know you game is a great activity for the first or second day of school!  #backtoschool #ideasThen I move on to playing another game - like maybe a BINGO getting to know you game.  

Finally we finish day 2 with finishing the craft from yesterday.

3.  Day Three

Last night, after school, I categorized those sticky notes into 4 categories:  Prompt, Prepared, Responsible, Respectful - but I didn't label them.  Instead I told the students that many of them had similar ideas and so I grouped those similarities together.  Then I read the grouped stickies out loud.  Next I asked the students what title we could give to this set of notes.  If they need a little help, I help.  I repeat this until all 4 categories have been labeled matching my 4 categories from above.

Then I say "Ok - so do we all agree that this is what we need to be successful?"  We make additions/deletions as necessary and then I say "Since we all agree that this is what we need to be successful, then these are our "rules" but I will call them our "agreements" because we all agreed on this together."

NOW I hand out the syllabus and go over the class requirements & procedures.  The students are more invested because we have spent some time getting to know each other.  I always include a "Student Information Sheet" that I ask students to fill out THAT NIGHT and return the next day.  I always tie this into my positive reinforcement system that I explain today as well.  

4.  Day Four

Today I do some kind of academically related activity that still is not subject heavy to keep building those relationships.  

So I might do something like have teams build something, or I might have them read an article about getting recruited (one year I had a bunch of sports fanatics!), or read a picture book that connects to our agreements to help establish our community.

We have some great class discussions and this is a perfect opportunity for me to observe - who speaks up, who doesn't say a word, who wants all the attention, and so on.  It's also a chance to reinforce any procedures.  

5.  Day Five

I end the week with some fun things!  Like a getting to know you survey and some silent note-writing, or a Socratic Seminar, or a goal-setting activity, or maybe even a presentation of that building activity!


Now the first week is done and you have started the most important part of teaching middle school - building relationships!  Next week, you can start in on that subject area content.  Just be sure to have routines and procedures that students can count on so that you will continue to build your community.  

Want all of this and more to help you get the best start with your new position teaching middle school?  My New Teacher Starter Kit has instructions and resources for the 6 areas all new teachers need!

The SIX things all new middle school teachers need for their classroom to start a new year off right!  #musthaves #survivalkit #firstday


-Class routines
-Behavior Management
-First Week Plans
-Lesson Planning checklists, templates & more
-Setting up the Classroom - 2 watercolor decor sets included!
-Syllabus samples

Get even more great ideas and free resources throughout the year by subscribing to my newsletter!





Summer Treats for Teachers


One of the biggest perks of being a teacher is summer vacation.  Of course, teachers don't generally get paid during the summer (unless their district has a deferment plan like mine), so this sometimes puts a wrench in the plans of soaking up some sun with sand between our toes.

Well, maybe this will help!  A group of middle school teachers has joined together to offer a MONTH of Sun, Sand, & Savings!

Every Monday will be dollar deals!
Every Tuesday will be special deals!
Every Thursday-Sunday will be a giveaway!

You can enter the giveaways below each week in July:





a Rafflecopter giveaway



a Rafflecopter giveaway


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