(This is a repost from last year)
I like to start the year with a bang, with activities that not only set the tone for the semester, but also ones that students find engaging and relevant. This year I will be doing Reader's Workshop three days a week, but the other two will focus on specific genres. I always start with non-fiction, as it provides an opportunity to give students interesting and relevant texts to read. As the semester progresses, we will move on to poetry and Shakespeare, things they find "intimidating", so I like to begin with texts that they find more accessible. That way they can build their skills and gain confidence before we move on to the more difficult work.
So, to that end, we start with a topic that everyone in the room can relate to: education. We begin with a discussion of what they feel is working in the school system and what they feel needs to change. We always have an amazing discussion, because they usually have a lot to say! I preface the discussion with a warning that they must not point a finger at any specific teacher, so the discussion stays general and focuses on issues, not people.
Then, we spend a couple of days reading/discussing a selection of poetry and non-fiction that is critical of various aspects--and players--in the education system. We also view several videos that always get a great reaction. My favourite is this one, a TedTalk from Sir Ken Robinson:
Finally, after we have looked at the system from many angles, I assign "The Ideal School Project". Students work in groups to design their version of the ideal school. They look at courses, extra-curricular activities, etc. and create a presentation for the rest of the class. They are always very thoughtful and creative, and presentation day is one of the best all year!
If you would like more detail on this, you can click HERE to download it for free on TPT.