I think starting the school year is the hardest part. Once students understand the routines, procedures, and expectations you lay out, it’s easy to settle into a routine. But that first month of school is rough–especially if you don’t have a curriculum. If you’re not sure how to start your high school English class, here are some ideas for what to teach in September.
Teach in September Idea #1: Have a Great First Week of School
For many schools, the school year starts in September. Make sure you welcome students into your high school English classroom with engaging activities.
The first week of school should introduce students to procedures and routines that they’ll be expected to follow. It should provide a way for you to start getting to know your students quickly.
But you also want it to be engaging and get students excited for the rest of the semester.
Teach in September Idea #2: Teach a Framework for Writing
Once your students are familiar with you and your classroom, make sure they start learning the basics for everything else they’ll be expected to do. For example, assuming you’ll have students do some writing in your class, you’ll want to make sure they have a basic writing framework to follow.
My school had students do a lot of argumentative writing. To scaffold longer essays, we taught our students the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning framework.
We would use claim, evidence, and reasoning in everything we did–from short paragraphs to multi-page essays.
So before we even started reading, I taught and reviewed the C-E-R framework. That way, when it was time to write, students knew what I expected and how to do it.
Whatever writing framework you’ll have students using, introduce it early–before they’ll need to use it.
Teach in September Idea #3: Assess Students’ Grammar Skills
You’re probably going to want to teach and review some grammar this year. Before mapping out a whole grammar unit, assess your students to find out what they do and don’t know.
For example, my students really struggled with the basics. I learned that I had to go all the way back to writing complete sentences before we could move forward to more advanced skills.
But your students might be ready to discuss verbals. You’ll never know without an assessment.
I like to assess my students at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of my course. These assessments provide great data points that allow me to track student progress.
(These data points are also great if you’re required to create a personal goal and track student data through the year for your license.)
So give your students an assessment and then decide on the pacing of your grammar from there.
September Teaching Idea #4: Start an Independent Reading Program
I firmly believe that the single greatest way to help our students academically is to get them to read more.
So an independent reading program is essential.
Use this guide to start your own independent reading program this year. The first month or so of reading needs to be strict if you want students to fall in line. Decide on your non-negotiables during independent reading and follow through on student consequences.
Then, once you have your routines in place, enjoy reading and sharing books with your students all year long!
September Teaching Idea #5: Teach Important Literary Terms
For the rest of your class, you’ll want students able to analyze and discuss what they read and write. This becomes difficult, however, if students don’t have the language for what they want to say.
So make sure you teach essential literary terms early. The terms you teach will depend on the content you plan on covering throughout the year.
For example, if you plan on reading lots of poetry in class, you’ll probably want to review figurative language terms. If you’re teaching an AP class, you’ll probably want to review more advanced terms like tone, motif, and diction.
Make a list of all of the literary terms you’d like your students to know. Then, identify the five or ten most important. These are the literary terms to focus on.
If you end up spending a lot of time during the year teaching and reviewing literary terms, you can even create an assessment for them for the end of your class. I use this Literary Terms Assessment as a final for Creative Writing.
Even if your students should already know basic literary terms, a little review won’t hurt.
It’s tempting to want to jump head first into deep content when school begins but take a pause instead. September should be about preparing students for future success throughout the rest of the school year.
They’ve probably had some learning loss from the summer and might need time to review before they move forward. Your students also might not be where you expect them to be, so taking time to assess them can help you better prepare them for the year.