We’ve all been there. As students and teachers.
“Tell me about your summer!”
Stares. A few random hands. About 12 stories involving Panama City Beach.
Sure, it’s fun to hear about your students’ summers (you definitely learn a lot about them based on the answers, for sure). But the topic can also be a bit polarizing, especially if you’re like me and teach in an economically diverse school—we’ve got 50%+ free/reduced lunch as well as some very wealthy families. And some kids will inevitably tell you they “did nothing” or “I just slept” for two months. We all know that makes for a snoozefest of an essay in and of itself.
In comes the “I Love…” essay. I “borrowed” this idea from a colleague a few years ago, and it’s been my go-to “beginning of the year” activity after making some tweaks and improvements!
The thing I love about this essay is that there is NO way a student can tell you he has “nothing to write about” because everyone loves something. Whether it’s a favorite boy band (I learned all about K-pop and BTS last year 😳) or an undying love for McDonald’s, each kid brings something to the table.
You can speed up or slow down the writing process as you want in your schedule, too. I start with some quick grammar practice and go over adjectives, verbs, etc. to strengthen the use of vivid, figurative language. We also go through a peer review, and I ask for volunteers to share aloud at the end. Each year I’m amazed at the quality of work my students give me, but I’m more amazed at how much effort they put into it across the board.
You’d also be amazed at how much kids appreciate you taking an interest in them outside of their sophisticated thoughts about Romeo & Juliet or The Great Gatsby. If EdPsych 101 taught me anything, it’s that kids love talking about themselves, getting asked about themselves, and relating to peers who share those same ideas. This is the perfect way to reel them in, make them feel safe and respected in your room, and sneak in some real writing instruction (like me feeding my toddler vegetables!) while trying to lay the groundwork the first few weeks of school.