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  • Writer's pictureWrite and Read (Laura)

3 Must-Have Lessons to Start the Year in Secondary ELA

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Teenage students sit at classroom desks talking and writing. Bold text at the bottom says, "3 Must-Have Lessons to Start the Year in Secondary ELA."

With the start of a new school year, it’s important to teach students skills they can utilize all year and provide engaging activities to keep their attention long enough to get to know you and what your class is all about. Here are three essential lessons to teach at the beginning of the school year to see student success.

Pages from an annotation unit are laid out on a desk. On top of the worksheets, there is a iPad showing a presentation called "Annotation Made Easy."


When we teach our students how to annotate text, we are teaching them how to read closely, make connections to their own experiences, and ask questions. As students learn how to annotate well, they become better readers. Learning how to annotate at the beginning of the school year is important because it’s a skill students can use all year with any type of text you teach. Check out my annotation unit that guides students through the annotation process with a presentation, guided notes, and practice activities. Everything is broken down in a way that is easy for students to understand, and it includes some differentiated options.

A laptop screen shows a slide from a digital email etiquette lesson.

Email Etiquette

Our students communicate with us more online than they ever have before. Teaching our electronic communication expectations at the beginning of the year will save us time and frustration later on. Beyond our classrooms, it’s also teaching our students life skills. When it’s time for our students to email counselors about scholarship opportunities or email their bosses about a day off, we will have prepared them for that. Check out my no-prep digital interactive email etiquette unit. It’s easy to use, and it’s a huge time saver.

A short story unit for "The Pedestrian" by Ray Bradbury is laid out on a desk.

Short Stories

Teaching short stories at the beginning of the year is a great way to keep students engaged. Novels and long writing tasks can be intimidating to students who struggle with English or have been uninterested in the past. It’s easier to start the year with shorter, engaging stories and save the longer projects for once you’ve gotten to know your students a bit better. If you’re looking for crowd pleasers, check out my scary story bundle. This digital and printable bundle contains three complete short story units that students always love, and your students will beg for more!

Here’s to a great year!


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