Back to School Ideas: Questions to Ask at the Start of the School Year

back to school activitiesA student’s return back to school is often a whirlwind of notebooks, uniforms, new tech devices and other academic utensils that have been wrangled from parent’s pockets. The universal sigh from students contemplating the school year ahead is echoed in many countries at this time. In contrast to this reaction, teachers are gathering lesson plans and researching classroom activities and back to school ideas to engage their students in new and exciting ways. Keeping the attention of a group of young people for any period of time is in no way a simple task. There are lots of “teaching hacks” you can align with your goals for the year ahead, one of which is described here.

There will be students who walk into your classroom with a deflated attitude after the summer break but don’t let this affect the class work ethic. The first week of school can be hard for students as their freedom dwindles and lifestyle changes to accommodate study and schoolwork. There are a number of back to school ideas and activities which can encourage the students in your classroom to re-engage with their education. A key way to re-introduce the word ‘learning’ into your students’ vocabulary is to set the tone of your classroom with open questions.

Here is a list of questions to ask students when they return back to school:

1. What’s worrying you about being back at school?

There are many layers of a student’s personality that as a teacher you may not have the opportunity to see. Asking this question will not only tell you if the student is having difficulty in school but it will give you an insight into their character. Keep track of this answer if you need to analyse a situation in future.

2. What are you most excited about this term?

To answer this question, students will review their previous school experience. Their responses will highlight what worked well in the past and encourage students to conceptualise positive aspects of going back to school.

3. If you were teaching this class, what new methods would you try?

Don’t expect the faces looking back at you to be aware of terms such as the flipped classroom and design thinking! This question isn’t entirely designed to give you classroom or back to school ideas, it builds a questioning mind-set students can build upon throughout the school year and become integral to their learning process.

4. What sites/apps do you use for your personal learning?

Questions to Ask This School YearYou will be surprised how many of your students have adapted to education 2.0 by using tools such as ExamTime to improve their learning independently. Students are smart enough to seek solutions to their needs using technology. Many students turn to the elearning tools available on ExamTime to manage their study time better, create visual study aids, test their knowledge before a test or collaborate on group projects. Here’s your chance to catch-up to them by getting started here.

5. What technology do you want to try?

It doesn’t matter if you have never used ed tech resources before or are a seasoned practitioner, there is always something new to try. Your students will guide you within reason but if you’re truly passionate about using technology to engage your students, follow the experts such as Free Technology for Teachers, Educational Technology and Mobile Learning and Edudemic for the latest tips.

6. What do I need to do to help you this school year?

This is your chance to be the ‘cool’ teacher at your school! Remember, this back to school activity isn’t about you, it’s about the student who sits in your class but wants more from their education than traditional learning. Think outside the box; let your students take charge (to an extent) and discover what’s missing from your classroom. You never know, it might ignite a passion to teach in some of your students.

Why Should Students Ask Questions?

Classroom ActivitiesThe overall outcome of this challenge is to create a classroom environment which is open to questioning. Making it safe to ask and answer questions from day 1 will encourage a lively atmosphere where any topic or concept is subject to debate. This truly is a lifelong skill students will thank you for in years to come when they are head of their college debate society.

Aside from setting the tone, if you continue to develop questioning skills in your students, their ability to analytically deconstruct study notes will result in a higher understanding of material and in-depth, embedded knowledge. On a personal level, asking your students how they feel and ensuring their opinions are listened to will give them a rewarding and empowering feeling.

Check out our “Back to School Ideas” board on Pinterest for even more inspiration.

Bonus: More Questions to Ask

If you think this back to school activity will empower your students, here’s some extra questions to add to the list above:

  1. What do you want to learn in my classroom?
  2. What major lessons have you learned from your education so far?
  3. How can you apply these lessons to this academic year?
  4. What 3 things can you do to be more successful this year?
  5. What lifelong skills would you like to learn in this subject?

Kick your students’ brains back into gear and refuse to let summer learning loss take over the progress you have made.

Do you have any more ideas for back to school classroom activities? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.

Technology in education: Teacher Guide

Teacher Guide 2014 - 2015Want some tips on integrating technology in your classroom? Our free Teacher Guide with the latest run-down of best practices to move towards classroom 2.0. The guide is designed to help you get the most of the school year so it’s jam pack with teaching activities and ideas.

Why not recommend it to other teachers? Check out the Teacher Guide here.


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