The first day of school is here! Excitement of new beginnings, clean classrooms, and the smell of fresh books fill our world. What does the first day of school hold? Introductions, class rules, recess, first lessons, and quite possibly, a composition class.
Who hasn't heard (or who hasn't said), "Get out a piece of paper and write about what you did this summer"? This activity happens so often it could be classed as a rite of passage into a new school year. The problem is that this activity breeds cliche ideas, creates boring compositions, and tends to set the tone for all future writing classes.
I think including some kind of composition to the first day of school is a really good idea. However, what if we'd try a different approach? I've included some new ideas across all the grades. Adapt the ideas to fit your students and their mastery level. I think you'll like the results. A blank piece of paper and that new sharp pencil doesn't need to be daunting. Flash it like a pro and dash off some excellent compositions!
If you can, let the students know the joy of something as simple as writing their name. Purchase a new rubber kick ball and have the students write their name on the ball with a permanent marker.
Perhaps you could have them copy a word that you've written on the board such as dog or cat onto a paper. Then below they could draw a picture of that certain animal. If you have shy and timid students, help guide their hands. Or even draw a picture of a dog or cat that they could copy as well. Little successes lead to bigger successes.
Draw two big school house shapes on the board and then line up the class in two groups toward the board. In relay fashion have the teams fill their school houses with words that describe the first day of school (or just school in general) and see who can have the most words in two-three minutes. The competition, time restraint, and everyone doing it at once are icebreakers and get their creative juices flowing.
Write far fetched vacation stories. Start by having each student write an opening sentence about a character doing something on vacation at the top of a paper. Everyone passes his starting sentence to the student beside him and the next person reads the sentence and adds to the story. He then needs to fold down the paper so the next person only sees the last sentence. Do this five to eight turns to create short stories. Have students read off the stories. It'll make everyone giggle.
Lists! Have students pair up and write a list of things they remember learning from last year. Spur their thinking by hinting at some ideas...Math or Science concepts, history stories, English rules, songs, games, somebodies dislikes, class rules, Bible verses, humorous happenings, etc.
After that activity, have students pair up with a different classmate and write a list of things they would like to learn this year. Art skills? Geography? Authors? Phys Ed skill? How to compute math problems faster? How to stick at their work better? Or maybe how to study for tests? It can be simple or complex ideas.
These are fun lists to post in the hallway for others to read.
Have students write something on a sticky note that they did this summer. Encourage a bit of creativity to write something that nobody else will think of writing. The goal is to write normal things that no one else will think of, not lofty things that no one else has done. Then read off the sticky notes and have students guess who wrote what. It's a fun warm up to a new school year and will get everyone included. Following are some ideas: a good drink you enjoyed making, a new sight you saw that summer, a skill you learned, a friend you made, something you spent money on, a trip you took, a funky camping experience (such as falling out of a hammock), a ride you took, a household job you did often, a book you read, etc. This idea inevitably will get students to think about their vacation in a whole new way.
Seniors have all sorts of ideas on what would make the school year perfect. Pair up students and have them write a bucket list of (reasonable) ideas that the whole class could do together. Have them write simple ideas such as singing a certain popular song, playing soft ball against another team, or getting a certain class average. You could also encourage them to write the far fetched ideas such as volunteering at a certain local program, earning money for the school phys ed equipment, helping younger students with study time, or go on a mini class trip together. Spark team work through this simple activity and post their bucket list ideas on the wall for everyone to read. Its good to get students thinking "outward" on the first day of school.
Positive composition experiences stem from the teacher's enthusiasm and eagerness to help students achieve. Perhaps it helps if we'd rename composition class? How about avoiding using terms such as Composition, Writing, and Thinking Exercises? Maybe we could call it a game, ice breaker, or warm-up instead? Who doesn't like a game? Warm-ups are always just easy stuff before the real deal;-) I hope you can set the "writing foot" on the right path this year using these simple but fun ideas on the first day of school.
May the Lord rain down blessings on your school term. Our thoughts are with you!