Welcome To 8th Grade Language Arts
Lesson 1 of 5
Objective: SWBAT understand the basics of the eighth grade english class including major requirements.
There are always nerves and excitement in the air on the first day of school. I'm not sure if it's more from me or from the students, but either way, it's important to think of ways to calm those fears and set a clear tone from day one. The tone I like to set from the beginning is one of openness and respect. We will be doing a lot of sharing as the year goes on so I like students to feel comfortable in my classroom.
I start the class by reading the poem "First Day Of School" by Taylor Mali. Mali is a fantastic slam poem and many of his poems can be used in the classroom for a wide variety of reasons. I like using this poem as it calls out those fears and anxiety but also reminds students that first impressions are so important. It also helps me keep that in mind. I don't have students do any writing with the poem but I simply read it to the class as they follow along with a copy. I ask students why I would read this poem. Many students say it's because it's about the first day of school. Others get the deeper message about first impressions. This is a lesson I want students to think about.
Getting To Know Each Other
One of the most important, if not the most important, aspect of the beginning of the year, is getting to know each student. If I want students to take my class seriously and respect the work we will be doing, they need to know that I know who they are. There are a tons of ways to do this but since the beginning of the year can be overwhelming to begin with, I try I keep it simple.
I pass out index cards and have students fill it out with three bits of information.
- 1. Name
- 2. One Word To Describe You
- 3. One sentence telling me about your summer.
I will use these index cards throughout the first few days and weeks of school. I keep a pile for each class and hold on to them during the first week or so as we are working together. When large group discussion occurs, I quickly look through them as a way to help me memorize each student's name.
The tricky part for students is the third question. I want students to think of something outside the box to make them stand out. This is done for two reasons. It will help me see who can do this kind of critical thinking in such a short amount of writing, but also the more unique the answer, the easier I can remember each student. I share examples from a book called I Can't Keep My Own Secrets as students are working on this. The book is a compilation of six word memoirs written by students and it helps students to see the variety of writing I am looking for. Be mindful, some are definitely for mature audiences. The video below shows some of the examples from the book.
The next aspect of the beginning of the year that is crucial is the time-honored syllabus. My district is a huge fan of having a syllabus for each class. It does help to keep the classroom organized and the goals and expectations are clear from the beginning, which is crucial when setting the tone for the year. Another great aspect about having a syllabus is students and parents are aware of expectations and requirements so if they are any questions during the year, the syllabus can be referred back to.
The rest of the class is devoted to reading through the 8th Grade ELA Syllabus. I pass out a copy to each student as they will need to return the last page signed along with a parent signature. I make sure I have both student and parent sign in case I need to defend anything that happens during the course of the school year. The signatures show me that the student and parent have read and understood the syllabus. I can refer back to this in case, for any reason, a student or parent says they were unaware of a certain aspect of the class.
After each student has a copy, I then read through each section of the syllabus. The major sections covered in the syllabus are:
- major expectations/requirements
- writing pieces/assignments for the year
- Textbooks and supplemental materials
- grade breakdown
- homework policy
- miscellaneous information
At the end I ask if there are any questions. Usually there are not, since the syllabus is rather detailed at times. I then remind students that they will need to bring the syllabus with a parent signature. The Syllabus Explanation discusses the syllabus in-depth.