Five Easy Back to School Ideas for Middle School ELA

Back to school has always been my favorite time of year as a middle school ELA teacher. There is a buzz of excitement in the air as students enter the hallway for the first time, a little nervous and unsure, but fresh and ready for a new year of learning.


I’ve always seen back to school as a huge opportunity for teachers and students. Starting the school year off right provides us with the chance to build a strong community where kids know they’re ideas are valued and their voice matters. For readers and writers, an atmosphere of respect and acceptance is key.


Here are five of my favorite back to school ideas for middle school ELA that help to build community and start the school year strong:

  1. Create simple name bookmarks instead of name tags or tents.

Way back in the day I used to have my students create name tents for their desks. Learning students’ names is essential, especially learning nicknames and pronunciations, but this year instead of name tents, I’m having my kids create name bookmarks they can use all year long. Bookmarks help us to learn each other’s names while also learning a little about our interests.


To create bookmarks, each student gets a piece of blank cardstock cut into a bookmark.Students are tasked with writing their name, nickname and/or pronunciation on their bookmark. Then, they add quotes from their favorite books, songs, and movies and images that symbolize them. Make bookmarks a warm up to ELA skills by asking students to add a metaphor or simile that describes them.


At the end of class, students present their bookmarks sharing their name, nickname, and interests. Designing bookmarks is so easy and effective, and it’s a great way to get to know your kids and show them they are valued from day one.



2. Set goals in Google Slides by creating vision boards.

Vision boards are so easy to create in Google Slides. All students need is a computer or ipad. Vision boards provide students and teachers with a visual representation of their goals for the year. To create a vision board in Google Slides, students simply add a background, then answer the following questions:

  • What is your goal or vision for getting smarter this school year?

  • When you envision this school year, what is something you can’t do yet that you hope to accomplish by the end of the school year?

  • What failures did you encounter in the past that you hope to learn from? How do you envision overcoming these past failures?

  • Create a vision of how you will strengthen your brain this school year.

Students then share their vision boards with the class. Not only does this activity help us to get to know each other, it’s a great way to start the year by setting solid goals.


Check out this three day Building Community lesson that guides students through the vision board process.

3. Get to know your students with reading and writing autobiographies.