I always struggle at the beginning of the year with determining how long to spend teaching rules, procedures, and various classroom management lessons. I absolutely believe that these management lessons are essential for a smooth school year. I’ve tried to skip some of these lessons in the past, and I paid for it all year long! However, I also feel pressured to dive into my curriculum as quickly as possible, because extra time is luxury I don’t have. As I was going back and forth on my back to school lesson plans, it hit me. Why not integrate some of my favorite back to school lessons with writing? I immediately became obsessed with working on a new unit that I plan to use the first two weeks of school. There are two parts to this unit-writing instruction and classroom management: writing and classroom management.
I’ve always jumped right in to writing workshop at the very beginning of the year. Of course, I’d start with routines and management, but then I’d dive right in to large pieces of writing. However this year, I want to start with the basics of writing a paragraph before I attempt to teach a five paragraph essay. It seems as if there is a bigger emphasis than ever on paragraph writing, especially on students’ high stakes tests at the end of the year. I will incorporate writing across the content areas all year long, but I think that it’s important to first explicitly teach HOW to write a paragraph. I don’t think that one quick mini lesson will do the trick, unless you’re teaching older students with a well established writing background. This year, I’m breaking down the process of writing a paragraph into simple steps.
- Brainstorming Details
- Writing the Body of the Paragraph
- Writing a Topic and Closing Sentence
- Writing a Paragraph
- Revising a Paragraph
Back to School Classroom Management
I’ve written each writing lesson so that I can use some of my favorite back to school picture books for my mentor texts. These books are also the basis for each of the writing prompts included in the unit. Even if you skip the writing lessons, I highly recommend each of the books for a beginning of the year read aloud.
Pictures From Our Vacation-This book gives students the opportunity to draw pictures of a few moments or events from their summer break. It’s not necessary for students to have gone anywhere special for a vacation to appreciate the text. I’ll use this for my pre and post assessment.
What if Everybody Did That-This is one of my favorites! It helps students understand why rules are important. The book gives great visual and written examples of what could happen if people no longer followed basic rules.
My Mouth is a Volcano-This book addresses the importance of not blurting out. I don’t think I’ve ever taught a class where that wasn’t an issue, so this is a great way to teach the importance of respecting each other’s turn to talk and share with the class.
How Full is Your Bucket-This book has been around for awhile now, but I absolutely love the message that it teaches. I use this lesson to introduce the concept of being a bucket filler or a bucket dipper. The author does a great job of making a difficult concept easy to understand for students.
I Just Don’t Like the Sound of No-This is the newest book to my collection, and I chose it because I’ve noticed that many children (including my own) have a tendency to want to argue when things don’t go their way. This book discusses how sometimes we don’t get the answer we want and then shows appropriate and inappropriate responses.
A Bad Case of the Tattle Tongue-I like to prevent tattling at the very start of the school year, and this is a great way to teach the difference between tattling and reporting. The author does a great job of making the text and illustrations student friendly.
Each of the seven lessons include a complete lesson plan that is written in the workshop model for writing workshop. The format is the same format that I use for all of my writing lesson plans, with a mini lesson, independent writing, and share time.
There is also at least one printable for each lesson plan. All of the graphic organizers follow the same format, so students can become familiar with one graphic organizer. The graphic organizer starts small and gradually expands as students learn how to write different parts of a paragraph. I’ve also included a generic graphic organizer that can be used all year with any text.
For a little extra practice, I included a mixed up paragraphs activity, where students cut and paste scrambled sentences and glue them in the appropriate place on a graphic organizer.
I am so excited to use this unit when we go back to school! I think that it’s going to help me set the tone and expectations for both writing and behavior all year long! You can check it out here if you’re interested!