3 Top Tips for Starting a New Semester


Get back into the groove after a long break and set a tone for positive connections and growth with these 3 top tips for your middle school classroom!

The first day back after a long break can seem a little awkward.  Everyone is re-adjusting to the school schedule and being together in a learning community again.  To help make this a smoother transition back to school, I suggest the following three things to get the semester off to a great start:

1.  Have an ice-breaker

I give all students new seats in the new semester.  I do this because I want to give the idea of a fresh start to the students.  After they find their seats, then I like to ask each person to share one thing they enjoyed doing over the break. In my class, students have the right to pass, but I'll go around the room and invite each student to share.  

2.  Review class agreements

Next, we will review our class agreements (rules).  I write 11 questions about our class agreements on index cards and then the 11 answers on separate index cards.  (If you have more students, then write more questions and answers to match so that each student has a card.)  

Then I'll pass out one card to every student.  Now all students have to stand up and move about the room to find their "partner" -  questions will have answers and all answers have a question. :)

Once everyone has found their partner, we form a circle and each question partner reads their question and the answer partner reads the answer. I make any clarifying statements as necessary.  Once all partners have shared, we have reviewed our agreements and we return to our new seats.

3. Lay out the road map of the semester.

Now I lay out the plan for the new semester.  For us, it's working on analyzing arguments and then writing argumentative essays up first.  As we work on these standards, we'll also sprinkle in standards like point of view, interpreting words and phrases, and text structure.   Then we'll be reviewing informative writing and taking our state writing test.  After that, it's a direct focus on reviewing reading standards from the first semester to get ready for year-end exams.   Want to see the layout of my second semester?  Click here!

Students like knowing what's coming up and I think of this as the coming attractions. It's at this point that we talk about goal setting.  I like to talk about goals in terms of not what you WANT to do but what you WILL do.

In order for a goal to move from a WANT to a WILL, there have to be actionable steps.  It's one thing to say "I want get an A." but it's another to have a plan for getting that A.  

I model a plan using something from my personal life (like drinking more water) and I both show and encourage my students to make small steps as part of their plan because it's all about progress, not perfection.

After this discussion, we write our goal with our plan on the back of the new name cards on the desks.  Now the students' goals and plans are front and center every day.

This is a great way to get back into the groove and set a tone for positive connections and growth.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Use that first day back to school from break to set a tone for positive connections and growth!

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