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10 Easy Back-to-School Activities for the Middle School ELA Classroom

10 Easy Back-to-School Activities for the Middle School ELA Classroom


These back-to-school activities for the ELA classroom will help get your school year off to an engaging start while making your life so much easier!

The start of a new school year is an ideal time to set a positive tone for the rest of the year as we get to know our students and as they get to know each other. It is also an ideal time to foster a love of language and literature.

Our genuine interest in students’ lives creates a safe and supportive space for them to explore, learn, and grow as both individuals and avid learners of language arts.

My Top 10 Back-to-School Activities

As we get to know each of our students, we uncover their unique personalities, interests, and strengths, and in doing so, we pave the way to connecting with them on a deeper level.

These insights provide invaluable tools to tailor lessons, ensuring the activities resonate with each child and making learning an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

10 Easy Back-to-School Activities for Intermediate and Middle School
Photo by Monkey Business Images

So how can we plan for engaging back-to-school activities that build a sense of community and foster a love of language arts yet require minimal prep work? Here are some easy-to-implement ideas:

1. Hexagonal Thinking Icebreaker

Have students write and draw about an area of interest on each side of a hexagon. Then, ask students to mingle to share and match their interests. This activity encourages students to focus on their commonalities. In addition, it introduces the technique of hexagonal thinking for use with ELA content throughout the year. Therefore, this is one of my favorite back-to-school activities!

Check out my print-and-go Hexagonal Thinking Icebreaker for grades 5-8.

2. Dear Future Me Letter

Have students write letters to their future selves and share their goals, aspirations, and expectations for the school year. You can also use this activity to review the writing process. Once students have finished, collect the letters and hold onto them until the end of the school year. Reading their own letters provides an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate their growth.

3. Six-Word Memoir

Challenge students to think about an important moment in their lives and its impact on them. Then, have them write a memoir based on that moment in only six words. Since the memoir is only six words, students will need to focus on their diction and syntax to help readers make inferences about the important moment. To spark curiosity and discussion, have them share and discuss with others. 

Read more about my Digital Six-Word Memoir resource for grades 6-8. The only prep work is to assign in Google Classroom!

4. Pick Three Icebreaker

Provide students with a variety of options and ask students to choose only three- the rest will disappear forever. Then have students share their choices with a partner, a small group, or the whole class. What makes this back-to-school activity so much fun is how they agonize over having only to pick three! Over the years, I have found these discussions to be amazing and surprisingly deep.

You can get a copy of my digital Pick Three Icebreaker Activity for grades 6-8 (and many other goodies) in my Free Resource Library by joining my email list with the link below.

5. About Me Diamante Poem

Review nouns, verbs, and adjectives as students write diamante poems about themselves. In addition, this activity introduces poetry writing in an engaging, non-threatening way. The poems can be shared with partners, small groups, or the whole class if desired. The poems can also be combined with illustrations and displayed in the classroom.

Learn more about my Digital Diamante Poem Template, Lesson, and Rubric for grades 5-7. Simply assign in Google Classroom and go!

6. Literary Self-Portrait

Have students create self-portraits using words, images, and symbols representing their favorite books, characters, and literary elements. They can design their portraits on blank paper or use an outline of a head to help guide them. When finished, the portraits can be displayed in the classroom to celebrate students’ literary identities. This is another one of my favorite back-to-school activities!

7. Vision Board

Keeping a vision board can be an effective life management strategy. As part of the process, students reflect on their dreams, goals, and priorities and then create a collage of images and words that motivate and inspire them. A vision board can be updated throughout the school year, and they are a great way to keep dreams, goals, and priorities top of mind.

Read more about my Digital Vision Board Template for grades 6-8. This is another no-prep resource. Simply assign in Google Classroom!

8. SMART Goals

When students learn to set their own SMART goals, they become empowered because they learn to write clear goals, monitor their progress, and take ownership of their learning. Students can write both academic and personal goals and include action steps to help them stay on track. This is an ongoing process where they check their progress and update goals each quarter.

Learn more about my Digital SMART Goal Setting and Data Tracker Template for grades 6-9. Choose the slides you want to include or customize the editable version and assign in Google Classroom!

9. Interest Survey

One of the most common back-to-school activities is the student interest survey. Surveys can focus on general information such as favorites, hobbies, accomplishments, learning styles, etc… They can also focus on more specific areas such as reading and writing habits. Surveys are a wonderful way to start building rapport with students and can be implemented on the very first day of school.

Take a peek at my interest surveys with both printable and digital versions:

10.  40 Book Challenge

The beginning of the school year is a great time to set students up for success with daily independent reading. With this personal challenge, students learn to take ownership of their reading, expand their knowledge of genres, and improve their reading levels. This helps keep kids motivated to read and makes it easy for them to track their progress.

Check out my version of the 40 Book Challenge for grades 5-7. Customize in PowerPoint and print, then go!

These ten back-to-school activities will engage your students and promote a passion for language, literature, and creative expression. In addition to creating a positive and engaging classroom environment, they set students on the path to becoming independent readers and independent writers. I hope I’ve inspired you to create a dynamic and inspiring language arts classroom from the first days of the school year!

If you need help creating an environment where students can focus while working with partners and small groups, consider reading 6 Effective Ways to Calm the Classroom.

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Jan's File Cabinet Intermediate and Middle School Language Arts

Hello there!

I’m Jan. I’m a pet mom, an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, and a MASSIVE book hoarder. My philosophy of teaching is simple… start where students are and build them up with the right interventions at the right time. I enjoy making digital and printable resources for upper intermediate and middle school language arts.

Gain instant access to the Free Resource Library when you join my email list!