For many people here in Minnesota, the State Fair, held over a 10-day span through Labor Day, is one of the most anticipated events of the year: hot dish on a stick, deep-fried candy bars, the Miracle of Birth Center (baby farm animals), people watching…what’s not to love?! Add the final gasps of summer weather, changing leaves, evening bonfires, and apple orchards, and it’s a beautiful parade of all things autumn. However, for many years, I have greeted that season with anxious feelings surrounding my summer vacation coming to an end and returning to school.
Even after 14 years of teaching, I still experienced the “back to school jitters” every fall. I recall those feelings (a combination of nerves and excitement) as a child, an adolescent, and as a college student, even though I loved school. I’m not alone. When I Googled ‘back to school jitters’, there were 16 million hits! Many children, teens, parents, and teachers feel anxious about the unknowns of another school year. Thankfully for most, those jitters dissipate once we get back into the swing of things.
One strategy that helped my students and me transition from summer to fall was by acknowledging our thoughts and feelings through writing. Writing can help us organize our thoughts by identifying what we fear the most. Often times, our fears and concerns lose intensity once they’re written down on paper.
As an elementary special education teacher, working mainly with students with learning disabilities, I wanted to support my students by listening to what they were thinking and how they were feeling about returning to school, while nurturing their writing skills. Because many of them struggled with writing, I didn’t want to cause more anxiety by having them write about a topic that already had their little stomachs tied in knots.
So, I created this guided writing activity using the prompt, “Goodbye, Summer! Hello, Fall!”. Starting with brainstorming, this supported writing activity guides students with writing a 6-sentence narrative. (Also included is a sample narrative for your reference.) This specific activity is based on third grade Common Core State Standards, but I used it with my students with special needs up to grade five. For younger students, this activity could be modified to include drawing pictures related to summer and fall with 1-2 corresponding sentences. A friend of mine, who is a middle school special education teacher, modified this activity to include writing a six-paragraph narrative.
While I will probably always associate our state fair and the changing leaves with returning to school, writing has eased the jitters for me. Acknowledging that change is difficult and focusing on the positives of what’s ahead through writing has greatly benefited my students as well. I hope this example of guided writing will help you and your students have a smooth transition from summer to fall!
Have a great 2017-2018 school year!