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!).
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!