This will by my second year with my students. I teach middle and high school level English. It's the first time I have had all of them before for an entire year. I am wondering what I will do differently at the beginning of the year, since many of the assessment and icebreaker activities I usually do don't seem to apply.
Any other loopers out there with suggestions?
A great activity I have with my middle schoolers is writing an article for Biography.com about one of the other students. Choose two to three Biography.com articles of persons they like (Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus) and, as a group, have them determine what information is important in each article and how it is organized. You may either have them write their own interview questions or give them interview questions if you want to shorten the time. They then interview the other student and write a one page paper utilizing as much information as they can. (I have found that they give the intervieiw questions to the other student, so I have a rule that they have to write everything on their interview page themselves.) Have the student take a picture of their subject and place it into the biography, making it look like an article in Biography.com. I then post them on the wall in alphabetical order. The students love to read them, and since they know they are going to be read, they put more time into them.
Another good activity is to have them write an "I Am" poem. There are many different versions of this poem, but I have gotten some beautiful poetry from the students with this one and it reviews similes and metaphors.
One activity that sometimes intrigues students who have been together repeatedly is having the students who wish to participate write down one very unusual fact about themselves that no one in the room probably knows. These facts are collected and read by the teacher who pauses as the students try to figure out whose traits belong to whom. If the owner wishes to enlighten them or acknowledge the guess, he/she can. But, if the owner does not wish to, that is all right.
Of course, this activity easily launches a discussion of how appearances are deceptive and how people do not really know those that they believe they do, etc. It also starts students thinking "outside the box."
There are some cautions to this activity as younger or immature students may write some unrepeatable things; however, most of the time it has been used by me, students complied with the instructions.
Wow, ... I hate to have a different approach in that all of the above ideas have seemed to work well in the past. However, for me, I just reiterate my strict rules and then plunge right into the literature! We have lots of fun each day in class (or at least as much as I can muster with different activities & clips, anyway), ... so I don't find much need for icebreaking activities. Perhaps this has become my method simply because I do end up having many of the same students year after year (for their four years of high school).
I wasn't supposed to be a looping teacher, but I have ended up with classes of the same students over again. Instead of the usual icebreakers I used to get to know the students names, we did an interview activity where you had to tell something interesting your neighbor did over the break (my repeaters came back to me second semester). I did have a few newbies and I didn't want them to feel awkward. I also gave a grammar/language arts test on the first day. I explained to them that I was sure they wouldn't want to sit in class reviewing material they already knew. To help me make class more interesting for them, they needed to take this test and give it their best. Then, we spent the next day reviewing the test so they could see for themselves exactly what they didn't know. It helped me tailor the curriculum to the class and made a great jumping off point for the class.
I am getting ready to start a new year with the juniors which I had last year. Unfortunately, our school has had some devastating news about one of our returning students, he/she is no longer with us (God rest their soul). So, my school year will being with talking to mys returning students about their summers and, unfortunately, the student's death.
Outside of that, my plans would be to revisit some of the things we ended the year off with last year. I need to see how much they have retained.
I am not a looping teacher, although I spent many years as a resource teacher for gifted students and worked with the same individuals for multiple years in my resource rooms. If I were teaching a looped class, I think I would start with some getting reacquainted/catching up activities - even when you know the students, you don't know what has happened that may have affected them while you've been apart. I'm certainly sympathetic with concerns about doing anything not directly related to curriculum, so I would probably do my best to frame this within a prescribed format if possible - writing assignment from a required perspective, comparison and contrast of their life's events with the events in the life of a novel's main character, etc?
I am in this situation as well, as I am about to start teaching last year's Grade 11 group as they enter their final year in Grade 12. There are going to be a few class changes, though, with new students entering and some having left, so I am planning on giving them a kind of initial assessment on a short story, with discussion both before and after, to see how much they remember of what I taught them last year and also to give me an idea of where the new students are at in terms of their knowledge base.
I teach in the high schools, but I have the same problem. Fortunately our school year has been shortened about 3 weeks due to budget cuts and I am cutting everything that is not directly curriculum for fear of state testing results.
However, in the past, I have given a language arts survey that measures learning preferences and the students' perceptions of their language arts skills. It is a really interesting and engaging task for them, although it is individual.
Another option might be to create a task that forces them to coordinate on remembering some content from last year. Maybe they have a scavenger hunt or a puzzle that will only fit together if they know the right information from last year.
Just want to say that these are some great ideas!
Having looped twice with my class for three years (was hoping to make it five) and having been forced to change this year, for no other reason than to clear up someone else's mess, I do envy all of you moving on with your class, especially if you have built up a close learning relationship with them, as I did.
My suggestion for the beginning of the term echoes some of the above: keep it simple and familiar with that thread of continuity, so it will make moving on quicker and easier. Discuss how holiday plans went (as they might have talked about before the end of the last term); talk about the best bits of last year's studies and what is being looked forward to for the coming year; introduce the topics for this year and ask the class for suggests as to how they would like to tackle some of them, and then vote on one or two of the ideas; suggest that they might like to help with the lesson planning...(taking charge of their learning in the best possible way!); talk about which aspects of last year's learning would link to and support this year's study etc...; discuss changes they might like to see or try out...to help themselves, each other etc; what could they do better etc...discuss new learning partners...
Just have fun, you lucky loopers. I hope to have back my class in 2012 to see them through their last year in elementary/primary school - so fingers crossed!!