Back to School: Featured Lessons – Grades 6-8 ELA & Social Studies

However you might be kicking off the 2020 school year – in person, hybrid, or virtual – we thought we’d take a moment to highlight some relevant content for you. Check out some of our back to school lessons, as well as subject specific content!

Back to School

Back to School: Middle School

Grade(s): 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA, Social Studies

This Back to School unit is all about inspiration. Help inspire and empower your students for a school year dedicated to growth and learning.

Each step in this activity begins with a short motivational video to help set the tone for the school year. Your students will get to know each other through community and “getting to know you” activities, then they’ll each create their own motto for the year. Starting the school year the right way can make a huge impact on your classroom environment!

Qualities of a Model Student!

Grade(s): 5, 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA, Social Studies

Use this critical thinking activity to have students decide which qualities make a model student. It can help students to think about how they can improve their own attitudes and behaviors in class over the coming year.

Students answer questions about and discuss some of the qualities of a model student and then rank them according to which are the most important. Students drag and drop a curated list of qualities to rank their choices and use reasoning skills to justify their decisions. They can then compare to the class average.

Qualities of a Great Teacher!

Grade(s): 5, 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA, Social Studies

Use this critical thinking activity to have students consider what they are looking for in a teacher and why. It can help you to guide your own practice with a class and focus on what they are looking for from you over the coming year.

Students answer questions about and discuss some of the qualities of a great teacher and then rank them according to which are the most important to them. Students drag and drop a curated list of qualities to rank their choices and use reasoning skills to justify their decisions. They can then compare to the class average.

6-8 ELA Lessons

Moral Dilemma: Jack and the Beanstalk

Grade(s): 5, 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA

Jack and the Beanstalk, a widely read folktale, is a story centered around a resourceful young man who escapes the villainous clutches of an ogre called Giant. The resourceful Jack, however, faces several moral dilemmas in the story and his response to them is questionable.

There are three goals with this lesson: understand what a moral dilemma is, prove a claim using evidence, and write an essay to prove a claim.

Extended Metaphor Poetry Writing

Grade(s): 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Subject(s): ELA

This project really gets students excited about reading and writing poetry and they learn about figurative language and features of poetry at the same time.

The project starts with the detailed analysis and annotation of an extended metaphor poem called The Sea (by James Reeves) and students discover what makes this poem effective by themselves. Students then write and perform their own extended metaphor poem comparing a type of weather and an animal. They research their chosen weather and animal, come up with effective imagery and think about rhyme, rhythm and onomatopoeia.

Literature Circles: TV Production Style

Grade(s): 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA

How is analysis of a story like a television production? Using literature circle roles themed around TV production jobs, readers find the depth and insight in fictional text by collaborating with others.

Readers are challenged to interpret the characters, plot, and setting, citing evidence in the text, as part of their journey to understand the author’s grand intent for the novel, short story, script, or play.

6-8 Social Studies Lessons

It’s Ancient History

Grade(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Subject(s): ELA, Social Studies

In this project, students produce a documentary video for other students on a period in history using research skills, skills in storyboarding and producing an informative script, and video editing skills. They’ll also be learning about the details of the historical period and its impact.

They work in groups to research the period and decide what to include in their documentaries. Research and presentation guidance is included if you want to direct students as well as suggestions of how to extend, differentiate or direct this project. Also included is a rubric, videos, interactive questions and links.

Resilience Cafe

Grade(s): 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Subject(s): ELA, Social Studies

Students who struggle the most in the classroom are often forced to be resilient in their lives outside of the classroom. In the past, the struggles that they faced and overcame outside the walls of the classroom often remained separate and unrecognized.

The Resilience Café project brings those struggles from the outside into the classroom to be recognized and celebrated for the impact they have on students and the strength they build. The project seeks to connect stories of resilience from history with stories of resilience from our communities and our personal lives.

During Resilience Café, students learn about resilient heroes from the past and present. Many of these heroes are especially prominent in African American history, ranging from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. Students explore together what it means to be resilient and the music, art, literature, and work that can be born out of resilience.

They identify specific attributes to celebrate and communicate. Students connect a resilient historical figure, a resilient community member and their own personal story of resilience through writing and spoken word poetry. They honor their resilient community members by inviting them to a night of celebration through spoken word performances.

Resilience Café teaches students about the following major concepts and content.
• Attributes of resilience
• Resilient figures through history, especially African American history
• How students and members of the community today show resilience

This project is designed to have a structure compatible with implementing PBL in the classroom. NextLesson projects include certain key components that facilitate an authentic PBL experience.

Build A Time Machine

Grade(s): 6, 7

Subject(s): ELA, Science, Social Studies

Sixth and seventh grade students immediately travel back in time to the beginning of human history as they embark on their study of world history. From Mesopotamia to the Age of Enlightenment, they meet the people and learn about events that define us.

Clearly, they need a comfy time machine! Their challenge: using only recycled, reusable, or renewable materials found around the house, students build a time machine, document their challenges, write an expository essay explaining how it works, send a tweet out about the machine, and finally, open a time machine museum for visitors.

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