As you prepare for the first day, there is always so much to
do. Setting up your room, finalizing your syllabi, getting your grade book set
up, collecting your textbooks, attending gobs of meetings.
This post is not about those things!
Rather, it’s a list of ideas for helping you put some creative structures in place early so that the many details of those busy first weeks don’t overwhelm your desire to prioritize creativity. These are things you can consider and prepare for over the vacation and put into place as the year begins.
Sketchnotes are growing in popularity but still a fresh strategy to offer your students. Take a little time to download a free sketchnoting activity or bookmark a great video about how to sketchnote now, so that as school opens you can introduce this strategy to your students and help guide them toward a more engaging way of taking notes on anything and everything that you study in class.
Create a Theater Corner
Gathering props, wigs, costumes and face paint on a shelf or
two in the corner of your classroom can really up your creative game. I’m
always amazed at how much high school students glory in dressing up. A wig may be just what one of your students
needs to become a Shakespearean character during a reading or perform his best
during a reader’s theater group scene.
Build in Time for Genius Hour
Genius hour can help you connect with and empower your students. When you build in time for genius hour, you give your students the opportunity to pursue something they are passionate about. It’s not difficult to create a connection to ELA (and the standards) inside almost any project (the research, reflection, video creation, final presentation, etc. makes it easy!) so ELA teachers are lucky to have this chance to tap into students’ passions. Learn more about how to get started in this podcast or this blog post.
Pick up this free handout explaining the concept of classroom committees and have it ready to share with your students. Letting students take ownership over major classroom events (poetry slams, play performances, reading festivals, etc.) will make the events WAY better and take a ton of work off your shoulders.
Gather Books for your Reading Library
Schedule Guest Speakers
It’s easy to forget the power of guest speakers. Summer is the perfect time to talk to friends and friends of friends who might want to come in and visit your classroom. It can be as simple as a series of short books talks, in which adults from around your school come in to give a two minute spiel about their favorite book. Or as complicated as that actor friend of yours coming in to run a week-long theater workshop while you’re studying drama. Contact a variety of guest possibilities over the summer (ELA careers series? Creative writing workshops? Interdisciplinary connections?) and schedule them before life gets too busy.
If you’ve never tried a collaboration before, this is your year. It’s an amazing way to broaden your students’ horizons and give them an authentic audience for their work. Listen to this podcast chock full of ideas for collaborations and then hop into my Facebook group, Creative High School English, to find a partner or just share ideas with thousands of other creative teachers.
Build in a Small ELA Makerspace
you prep a small section of your classroom with maker materials. Index cards
and rolls of paper can help students who want to do maker drafts of their
writing, scrawling ideas everywhere before arranging them. Colorful chalk and
whiteboard markers, paints and an easel, legos or clay – any of these can help
students “make” settings or characters before imagining a story around them. A summer trip to the dollar store or the Target Dollar Spot will easily and inexpensively get you started gathering materials. Read more about this amazing option for a creative classroom right here.
Create Interdisciplinary Connections
one cousin who got his PHD in Engineering who now runs his own artisan perfume
company, Sfumato (so amazing! Check it out here!) and another who majored in
theater and is now helping Santa Fe turn garbage into biodiesel and compost
with her environmental non-profit, Reunity Resources. In the modern era,
students will combine their interests with their environment and draw on all
the skills they have to be successful.
We can’t know what they will do, exactly,
but we know it will probably draw on multiple disciplines. Working that into
your curriculum in intentional ways will help it feel more relevant and
exciting for your students. I love creating projects like “Literary Character Designs an App” and “The Literary Food Truck Project” that connect different disciplines and student interests.
Spend a little time considering how you could incorporate an interdisciplinary project this year and reach out to a teacher in another subject to plan before the mad rush of fall.
I hope this turns out to be your most creative year as a teacher. I find that the more I think of myself as a guide seeking to unlock student creativity, the happier I am. I don’t want to be their guru, because they won’t have me forever. I want to show them the amazing creative potential waiting inside them.
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