September is typically all about building routines and starting the core of your instruction. However, September also contains a number of great opportunities for building fun, interactive learning into your lesson plans.
Here are a few September lessons and activities to consider:
Back-to-School Lessons & Activities for September
I've included my five favorite activities to include in my lesson plans in September. These focus on special holidays and events at my school.
1. Celebrate Grandparent's Day
Each year, Grandparent's Day is celebrated the first Sunday after Labor Day.
I love tying this holiday into my lessons for several reasons. First, I adore my grandma so it seems like a perfect opportunity to give the students a chance to know a little more about my life outside of school.
Secondly, grandparents love the opportunity to get involved in the classroom.
Here are a couple great ways I've incorporated Grandparent's Day into my classroom.
World's Best Grandparent Awards
This project is easily one of my favorites.
It gives me a chance to feel my students' writing abilities out and it makes a wonderful bulletin board (which becomes a wonderful opportunity to brighten the day of our grandparents later on).
I have the kids do some brainstorming together about what makes their grandparents wonderful.
Then I give them an opportunity to write a little bit. Their final draft (which is about a paragraph long) goes on the template, which gets colored, cut, glued and hung.
Super cute, and super easy! You can read more this project here: World's Best Grandparent Classroom Craft
Grandparent's Day Read-a-thon
Grandparents love the opportunity to come to school.
At my campus, there is typically a Grandparent's Day lunch near the end of the week. I try to capitalize on the idea by bringing the visiting grandparents into our classroom.
We line up our independent reading time with lunch (either right before or right after), and the grandparents come in and listen to their grandkids read.
Those who don't have a grandparent join in with a friend. This is typically a 30-minute chunk of time, but the grandparents and the kids love it!
Of course, if you are lucky enough to have a retirement center nearby but not a ton of grandparent availability, you can always reach out and schedule a walking field trip!
There is just something about reading to a grandparent-like figure that makes reading a little more fun.
Plus, the grandparents typically get into the act and do some reading with the kids themselves.
Before I started using the World's Best Grandparent award, I used to have my students write letters to their grandparents for Grandparent's Day.
It was an easy writing project since it was only September, and I had not given much instruction for writing yet. It was also fun because many of the grandparents wrote back and became class pen pals.
There was a bit of prep work involved.
The week before, I assigned “get an address for your grandparents” as a homework assignment. I also put it on my website and in my email blast. Typically, 80% of the class would remember and have their address.
We would work through the letter writing process during the week of Grandparent's Day and take a “field trip” to the mailbox that Friday.
2. Do some apple-themed activities
It is easy to see a theme of apples as a primary thing. However, there are lots of great activities you can do with apples in September for older students, too.
My students have kindergarten buddies so it is nice when they have been discussing a similar topic because it gives them a great spot to start the conversation and things to reflect about in their buddy journals afterward.
Johnny Appleseed Biography Study
We have literally like 200 people in our social studies standards. Yes, really.
Johnny Appleseed is just one of them, but he fits perfectly into a beginning of year biography study.
Typically, I use this as a two-week book study with the whole class. I teach my comprehension-based mini lesson before we read together. Then we read our section of the book and apply the skill.
It is a great opportunity to teach my expectations for book groups while building skills and covering some social studies…since there is never enough time to get it all in.
At the end of our reading, we create fun biography mini-books to share with our kindergarten buddies.
You can get a copy of my Johnny Appleseed Biography Unit here.
This is a super fun mini-unit I do at the end of my science safety and methods unit.
The kids are presented with the challenge of having to keep apple slices from going brown after I show them how it “accidentally” happened to the apples in my lunch.
I provide them with 5 different liquids, and they have to make a hypothesis about which liquid will keep the apple slices from browning best. From there we work through the scientific method. It makes a fun experiment where they get to apply the scientific method to a real-world problem.
Teach Properties of Matter & Social Skills with Apples
This is a social skills lesson I always do at the beginning of the year, and it has a few different parts. The first is comparing two apples with different colored peels including cutting them apart to see what is inside.
The conversation moves toward the fact that we might all look different we all have feelings and want to do our best. It is a great warm-up for differences in learning and why different kids get different things (accommodations and such).
The second piece of the lesson focuses on the fact that words can hurt.
For this experiment, we all inspect a perfect, pristine apple that I've picked up. We make observational notes about it on the board, sketch it, etc. Basically, by the time our first phase is through the kids know this apple is in perfect shape.
Then I tell them we are going to play a game with the apple. We are going to toss the apple around the room, and everyone is going to share one thing they've heard someone say to another person that was unkind.
Of course, as the apple is tossed around it starts looking a little ragged, but they don't notice this because they are getting to toss it…and what kid doesn't like the chance to throw things in class?
After we finish, we observe the apple again noticing all the bumps and rough spots.
We talk about how when someone says unkind things, it can cause our hearts to feel a little like the apple appears. We talk about how to make it right, and inevitably someone suggests apologizing.
So we all pass the apple around and apologize. Yes, it seems a little silly, but the kids are usually all on board.
I then cut it open…and we end up with a great discussion that its better to chose not to say unkind things because even when we apologize it doesn't completely undo the damage. Throughout the year the kids remind each other of this lesson when they overhear someone being unkind so I know it sinks in.
Addition with Regrouping – An Apple Themed Math Station
While we are reading Johnny Appleseed, I like to work apples into my other activities.
In math, we are typically working on addition with regrouping about this time. I created my Apple Addition Math Center to help my students review.
The station focuses on 2-digit addition with and without regrouping. It is differentiated to allow for students to have independent and small group practice at their readiness level. I really wanted my students to have the opportunity to experience success without me right beside them, and this format has been really helpful for that.
The included activities are:
- Apple Add It Up: a partner sorting activity where students solve 8 addition problems & color-code based on whether they used regrouping
- Apple Picking Addition: an independent cut & sort activity where students solve and categorize addition problems
A variety of different problems are included, along with answer keys and all center materials.
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