Best Back-To-School Short Story

Here in my neck of the woods, we don’t start school until the beginning of September. So, I take a large portion of August and just spend time reading and exploring texts to introduce to my kiddos! One text that I stumbled on a few years ago was Gary Soto’s “Seventh Grade” short story – and I knew it held the power of connection.

If you haven’t read it yet, it’s an adorable tale written from the perspective of a seventh grade boy named Victor. He is going to his first day of school with a mis-led best friend, Michael, and one GIANT crush on the kind, intelligent and “cute”, Theresa. As an adult, I smile at the tricky situations Victor gets himself into – but my students relate to the tale on ALL THE LEVELS.

After We Read It Together… Then What?

This is the perfect short story to begin the year, opening up discussion about the hopes and fears of my incoming seventh grade students, who I haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know yet. They laugh, they blush, they cringe at Victor’s predicaments, and it breaks the ice in a very simple way (without those painful, first day games).


I like to ask students a few simple reading comprehension questions to gauge where each student lies in September. This is the time that I can really tune my teaching in to the needs of the group. The key here is to only ask them a FEW questions – this should be more about them trusting you and opening up than grilling them on their skills.


Then, I offer three “challenge questions” (completely optional) and I watch to see which of my students volunteer to try. These usually end up being my “grittiest” students, and it gives me more insight into their growing personalities. This also shows the other students that tough questions are doable – and effort is rewarded in my classroom with heaps of encouragement.


Lastly, I tuck away the academics and I ask them three simple questions that are ALL ABOUT THEM. They get to reveal one hope they have for the year, a fear they secretly harbor, and finally to create a story about a time they might have tried to impress someone else. We, as a class, get to learn how that endeavor turned out when I ask for volunteers to share their stories! (I am always pleasantly surprised at how many of them want to share their “embarrassing” stories!).

Digital Resource for “Seventh Grade” that students can type in to answer questions!

If you plan to teach this short story at the beginning of the year, and need a digital resource (it can also be printed if you’re in-person), then head over here to my TpT store to get the questions I ask my students to kick off the school year!

What are your other favorite ways to kick off the school year? I’d love to hear about them!

An Organized Alternative (or Addition) to a Virtual Bitmoji Classroom

If you’ve been scanning the internet within the last few weeks, chances are you’ve come across some mention of “Virtual Bitmoji Classrooms”. Teachers far and wide have learned how to create classrooms in Google Slides to make virtual learning feel a tiny bit more like normal.

A very simplistic version of my Virtual Bitmoji Classroom

I chuckled when I first saw them – I have been incorporating my own Bitmoji into my Daily Agenda for years. I would change it everyday to match our lesson, or to make the kids laugh. My middle schoolers wouldn’t admit it, but I know they looked forward to seeing what shenanigans my Bitmoji was up to each day.

So, I didn’t jump on the Bitmoji Classroom bandwagon. I sat back, I kept doing my thing, and I watched as it became the latest trend. It was fun – and educators needed that mental break.

It wasn’t until one of my co-workers posted a short clip on their Facebook Story of a “menu-style” set-up that incorporated the Virtual Classroom that my attention was PEAKED. It was clean, organized and specific – not only for my students, not only for parents, but for ME!

Perfect Menu for My Organized Brain – and for the Students/Parents!

Now, I’m a deep lover of all things rustic so I created one that reflected that side of my personality. However, you can tailor this design to your own taste. The best part? If you LOVE those virtual Bitmoji Classrooms, you can still utilize it within the menu. If you DON’T love them, you don’t need to use them with this set-up!

Disclaimer: You must download the Bitmoji Chrome Extension onto your computer in order to create this menu or the Bitmoji Classroom!

Breaking Down the Buttons

Daily Agenda

Students will be redirected to my Virtual Bitmoji Classroom when clicking on the clipboard. This will show the day’s agenda, and have links to those assignments. I can also change my classroom constantly to fit the seasons, what we’re learning, etc.


This will redirect students to a Google Doc that has links to notes in various Google Slides. As we continue to work, this document will fill up and always be available to students to return to if they missed a day, need a refresher, etc.

Google Classroom

Our district is a Google school, so many of our writing assignments will be turned in through the Google Classroom app. This button directs each student to their specific GC class!

Missing Work

Students are redirected to a Google Doc that is updated daily with missing assignments. At the end of last year, my email was so clogged with parent & student emails asking, “Do I owe you anything?” that I knew I needed to find a better solution. Each group will be assigned their own Google Doc for missing work, putting the responsibility back on the students to check and get caught up when necessary.

Class Texts

This button has a link to a Google Doc with poems, short stories, novels, etc that students will need to access throughout the semester.

Request Help

This will be a BIG game-changer for better serving our students. Students will be redirected to a Google Form with three simple questions: What is the assignment you’re stuck on? What question/section is it? What exactly are you confused about/not understanding?


Our district requires that students rate themselves using specific rubrics on the ELA Common Core standard skills. So, I spent hours going through the standards and re-wording them into a student-friendly format. Now, students can use the highlighter function for PDFs and still rate their learning! If you would like this resource, click here.

Make sure you create a slide (like the one above) that has specific instructions for how to highlight on a PDF. This will keep the number of emails asking how to do it down to a minimum!
Contact Info

This redirects students to the slide right after my main menu, in which I have a picture of myself, the link to Remind, my email address, my classroom phone number, as well as my Office Hours and a small disclaimer to be patient (in more professional terms, of course).


This button redirects students to the Zoom location where we will be meeting daily for our classes! If you prefer Google Meet, just change up the icon! That way, you don’t have to send out an announcement everyday in Google Classroom with the meeting link.

If you’re not a pro at designing in Google Slides, I have created a simple walk-through of how I designed this one below.

If you want to create a virtual Bitmoji Classroom, I would recommend this one – however, there are TONS of others out there!

Happy August, everyone!