Expect Unexpected Engagement When you try Hexagonal Thinking in ELA


310: Rock the Reading Block
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Do THIS in July to make August Better in your ELA Classroom

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ELA classroom

I know how it is. One minute you’re paddleboarding along the lake, the next your mind is back-to-school as you consider whether to add book clubs in September, buy new plants for your windowsills, or try to fight a Jason Reynolds book into your 9th grade team curriculum (Yes! Do it!).

Don’t try to tell me that’s not you, because here you are, reading this teaching blog in July. It’s nothing to feel bad about! Mixing a little fun creative work into summer relaxation is allowed. So is taking the summer 100% completely off of course – whatever works for you!

But if you’re looking for some ideas, things you can put into place right now this minute so that the year is exponentially easier and nicer, you’ve come to the right place. Because today, I’m sharing some fun favorites you can put into place now so you can enjoy them all through the school year.

You can listen in to episode 200 below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.

#1 Make your Syllabus the Easy Way

There’s no need for a syllabus to take all day! Use my fun (free) templates and crank yours out now so you can focus on classroom set-up come August. Just add your details and drop your preferred pictures in, and you’ll be done in a few minutes.

ELA classroom

Sign up below and I’ll get those templates over to your inbox ASAP! You’ll also get my fun Friday emails full of teaching ideas each week. Because who couldn’t use a little inspiration by the end of the busy week?

#2 Think Big Picture in your ELA Classroom

Your classroom space is almost like an extension of home during the year. You’re probably there more than you’re anywhere else – right? So thinking a little over the summer about how to create a space you enjoy will have big benefits for you during the year. You might enjoy creating a mood board this month, with colors you like, screenshots of displays or bits and pieces you notice on Instagram or Pinterest, doodles, whatever. Then as you organize what you want to bring in or hit the teacher deals at Target, you’ve got a vision you can follow through on.

And if you’re feeling inspired once you do it, you can get some classroom poster printing done over the summer too! Education Amplifier has AMAZING free posters, or grab a Drive copy of my reading/library organization posters here.

#3 Attendance Questions in the ELA classroom

Attendance questions are one of my favorite quick community builders, and I think they will be for you too. They add a chance to check in with kids and get to know them better anytime you can snag five minutes from your lesson. I like to do them almost every day for the first few weeks, and then pop them in now and then for the rest of the year when I feel like the class could really use it.

Here’s how they work….

At attendance time, instead of calling roll and having students say “here,” have them share their answer to a question. The question should usually lead to a SHORT answer – one or two words – but if your class is dealing with something or reeling from something, you could always take more time.

Now’s a good time to grab my free three-week download so you’re ready to start with them on day one! Save them somewhere you’ll know where to find them.

You might like my 180-day attendance questions here on TPT. They are perfect for a secondary classroom to encourage classroom discussions with even your quietest students! I hope you’ll enjoy this fun community-building activity with your students!

#4 Listen to Podcasts you can use Later

I am such a fan of podcasts as texts for your classroom, and summer road trips, ambling hikes, and couch chill time all provide great venues for previewing podcasts you might enjoy listening to AND love to share in class.

Here are some shows I recommend exploring: How I Built This, Shakespeare Unlimited, Grammar Girl, The Happiness Lab, and Life Kit.

If you find episodes you love, save them in a folder in your Bookmarks so you can create listening sheets for your students later on.

#5 Plan a Day One you Love

Knowing your day one is locked in and low-stress will help keep you feeling more relaxed when back-to-school season arrives. I have two favorites, the one-pager name tent and the hexagonal identity one-pager. Both take the focus off you and let you wander the classroom connecting with kids as they share parts of themselves with you and their classmates. Both help you get to know everyone’s names – always a major priority for me at the start of school!

Find out more about hexagonal identity one-pagers right here. Or, if you’d rather try the name tent one-pagers, which are especially great if you’d like to have help with names for the first one or two weeks, check out this post, “The Easiest Way to Learn Student Names.” You might like this name-tent one-pager on TPT.

#6 Scoop up some Graphic Novels in the ELA classroom

Have you been waiting for a sign to start introducing graphic novels into your curriculum? Well, this is it! Order now, and you’ll have some brand new hits on your choice reading shelves come September. Start the year off with five graphic novels propped along the top of your shelf and you won’t be sorry.

If your school serves kids in need, consider signing up with First Book to get your books at reduced prices. Thrift Books is also a good option. Or start a Donors Choose project now to fund a new classroom collection – here’s a quick guide to making your project the best in can be on Donors Choose.

Want to dive deeper? Check out the winter series of graphic novel posts: Turning Classics into Graphic Novels, How to Host a Graphic Novel Book Tasting, and 10 Graphic Novels for your Classroom Bookshelf.

Wrapping it all Up

I could go on and on, but a big part of July is renewing your creative energy and building up your internal reserves.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!







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