Let’s dig into 5 reasons you should start the year with close reads in your upper elementary class. From learning processes to building community, these close reads are perfect for back-to-school!
A new school year means a new class and a gaggle of new faces to learn and love.
I have always loved the beginning of the school year because it gives teachers a fresh start. Just as many people out in the business world view the New Year as a time to make changes and improvements, teachers have this magical time every year where they get to start over and try new things.
The end of the year is time for reflection, the summer is time for a break, and back to school is a time to dream.
Yes. I said dream. Because the students entering your room don’t know you or your tendencies. They have no preconceived notions about what a day in your class is going to look like or what you will be like as a teacher. If you wanted to, you could completely reinvent yourself as a teacher at the beginning of the year.
Another important part of back to school time is about getting to know your students.
You have a whole new group of students coming into your class, and you need to learn as much about them as possible. You need to find out who they are, what they like, and what their skills are.
As you consider different ways for starting the school year, establishing yourself as a fun, energetic and caring teacher, and getting to know your students, we highly recommend that you consider using close reads to get your year started right…or should we say write!
Our Close Reads with Mystery Pictures are everything that the beginning of the school year should be. They are fun, allow students to be creative, they are differentiated for different levels, and great for setting up expectations for similar activities throughout the year.
5 reasons to start the year with close reads and why they should be part of your back-to-school plan
#1| Get a feel for the skills your students know.
Your students are coming in from lots of different teachers with a lot of different skill sets, but assessment is key at the beginning of the year to help you plan for the future.
Close reads, like these with mystery pictures, allow you to measure students’ reading and writing skills, whether they can follow directions, and the differentiation options give you the material necessary to help all students feel successful right from the beginning of the year.
#2| Close reads are engaging and themed
The beginning of the year is prime time for assessing students, and you need the rest of your class to be actively engaged while you work.
Since these close reads come with a variety of passages and are available in lots of themes (see this post where we lay out our close reads month-by-month), you can make several available for students to work on while you meet with students individually to do testing and assessments.
#3| A fun way to ease into the new school year
As they say in Trolls, the world isn’t all ‘cupcakes and rainbows,’ but it would be great if it were! The beginning of the school year is the same.
As much as we want everything to be fun, we also know that a lot of things go wrong at the beginning of the year.
Kids get lost walking back from the bathroom; they spill their new water bottles that they just can’t seem to get the cap on; they are shy and concerned about who they are going to sit by at lunch…the list goes on and on.
No matter what we plan for, we can’t plan for everything, which means the activities we do plan need to be able to ease students back into learning in a safe, fun, and encouraging way.
The nature of close reads provides an easy tempo for students to follow. Read the passage once, do ‘these’ things. Read the passage again, do ‘these’ things. Read the passage a third time, answer the questions. The simplicity of the process is calming to students, but the pictures and interesting passages keep them interested.
Easing students back into a full school day, and easing them back into learning is exactly what they need from us, and close reads can be the exact thing that helps them do that.
#4| Introduce close reading, which is a staple in the classroom
Starting the year with close reads helps students get comfortable with them early in the year, which makes the close reads themselves, and the process, more accessible throughout the year.
If you have our close reads bundle, then you have access to over 30 sets of close reads to use throughout the year.
If students are introduced to them in the first week, then you can insert them seamlessly into your planning for the rest of the year with minimal prep and/or explanation. They are also great for use with subs because the students feel confident with the process already!
#5| Opportunities to build community
Close reads don’t have to be an individual activity. Incorporating a small group aspect to the close reading process the first week will give students a chance to get to know their classmates.
To make the close reads collaborative, group students before the readings, and then have them take time between each reading to review each step of the close read process, ask each other questions about words they didn’t know, and talk about what stood out to them.
Since it’s the beginning of the year, it may also be fun, if you randomly ask students to share something about themselves with their group members related to the topic. For example, if you are using the free Crayon History close read, you may ask them to share their favorite color with their group or you could ask them to share about what they think of when they hear the number 8 (since that is the number of colors that were in the first box of crayons).
Finding ways to make activities collaborative at the beginning of the year, will build and reinforce the importance of community in your class from day one!
The beginning of the year is the time to reinvent your classroom and yourself as a teacher, and incorporating themed activities that can build community, assess student skills, give students opportunities to learn processes that will be valuable throughout the year, and help ease them back into learning are going to be invaluable to setting students up to enjoy learning in your class with you as their guide.
If you are looking for a close read to get started in those first few days of school, try out our free Crayon History Close Read with Mystery Pictures. If you want to learn more about the close reads available from Fun in 5th Grade, check out the store or read some of these other blog posts about close reads!