"How do I start class?" can be one of most dread-inducing questions of lesson planning. On Sunday nights, we rack our brains for Monday morning warm up writing prompts and do-nows, often re-thinking and undoing these plans on the subway ride into school. Those first chaotic and precious minutes of the class period can be among the most tricky to plan, even for the most enterprising educators.


This week, we're thinking about "starting" from a micro and macro perspective, considering the concrete activities that can be done in those first moments of class. We're also wondering about this whole idea of "starting," especially how teachers can learn or try something entirely novel in their classroom practice. How can we set the tone for a learning experience? And how can we, too, refresh our work as teachers and become more attune to starting anew?


Below, check out some ways of "starting":


Classroom Resource

Here's a class starter that we just love: Task cards. Task cards are laminated cards with individual activities that have varying aims and challenges, making it easy for teachers to tailor a specific learning experience to each student. On the teacher entrepreneur site, Teachers Pay Teachers, you can find a slew of different (and affordable!) task cards, especially for reading strategies, writing and math exercises. One of our favorites is the "Making Inferences" cards, which includes 24 cards featuring a short passage with a text-dependent question. Students use clues within the text to infer their answers.


Raising Consciousness

Interested in learning how young people can get a kickstart in the field of environmental conservation or prepare for a career working in the National Parks Service? The United States Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is a summer youth employment program that engages young people in meaningful work experiences on national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries while developing an ethic of environmental stewardship and civic responsibility. YCC programs are generally 8 to 10 weeks and members are paid the minimum wage for a 40-hour work week. Most YCC opportunities are non-residential programs which provide paid daytime work activities with members who commute to the Federal unit daily. For a closer look at this federal program: Listen to this podcast about students from all over the New York area who worked for the Youth Conservation Corps at several National Parks of New York Harbor locations in 2009.


Good Reads

Start Where Your Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: By taking the time to know ourselves, we can appreciate the world around us. Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images, Meera Lee Patel's book presents supportive prompts and exercises along with quotes to encourage reflection through writing, drawing, chart-making, and more. The book also features quotes from writers, artists, and other visionaries paired with open-ended questions and prompts, with plenty of room for writing and reflection.