ELA Lesson Plans: What to Teach in September

In September, what do you teach? We like chatting about lesson planning. Grab a cup of coffee, and brainstorm some possibilities with us!

Bell Ringers

Lauralee recommends grammar bell ringers.

Do you have a system for getting students engaged in class as the bell rings? Start each class period with grammar bell ringers. Students will be attentive, and you can tie the numerous punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure components to the rest of class. Beginning class with a small grammar lesson with older students also prevents the crunch of “test prep” later in the year. 

September grammar task cards #BellRingers #TeachingGrammar

Melissa uses independent reading.

Independent reading is a relaxing way to begin class. It encourages a high volume of choice reading. Plus, you can follow it up with any other aspect of ELA. Grammar? Have students look for evidence of the day’s concept in their reading. Writing? Students can respond to literature to practice the day’s skill. Vocabulary? Students should be able to relate pretty much any word on their list to their novel. This independent reading program has been highly successful with older students.

Full choice classroom book club program that is engaging, manageable, classroom tested, and effective #MiddleSchoolELA #HighSchoolELA

Writing Instruction

Melissa: Dig into literary analysis.

Middle school and early high school students often benefit from scaffolding with literary analysis. Because so many of the standards require analytical skills, we develop them all year. At the beginning of the year, it’s helpful to provide scaffolding. Show students how to apply literary analysis to a variety of texts. This fiction and nonfiction literary analysis unit emphasizes both reading and writing.

Fiction and nonfiction literary analysis unit focusing on scaffolding students' understanding of analytical reading and writing skills through gradual release #LiteraryAnalysis #SecondaryELA

Lauralee: Get prepared with a writing bundle.

Writing instruction is moving forward in ELA classes! Teachers constantly look for varying tools to reach students, to provide student choice, and to connect with student writers. The Writing Bundle for Freshmen and Sophomores has graphic organizers, editable rubrics, and station activities to get students talking and moving. As every writer differs, teachers must empower every class differently.

Since September is still early in the school year, graphic organizers (pictured below) allow you to scaffold for students—and to let students advance with their writing if they need little or no scaffolding.

Grammar Lessons

Lauralee: Scaffold and differentiate lessons.

Typically, grammar lessons start with the eight parts of speech. Give a pretest over the parts of speech, but if students understand those concepts, move to parts of a sentence. As always, scaffold and differentiate grammar lessons so that students find meaning in their language.

The best advice for reviewing grammar basics with older students? Connect the purpose to future concepts. A powerful understanding of verbs will improve student writing. An understanding of predicates will help students with parallelism. Older students understand grammar review better if you explain why they will need the concepts.

Melissa: Get a baseline with a diagnostic.

Before beginning grammar instruction, get a baseline of where your students are with the concepts you will be teaching. Some students may claim they dislike grammar, but when they can see their growth from point A to point B, they take more pride and ownership. Give students chunks of this grammar assessment before and after large units to track learning. In September, you may end up doing a quick review of the eight parts of speech, but the diagnostic will help you to pinpoint your students’ greatest needs.

Grammar diagnostic test for middle school and high school ELA #GrammarAssessment #HighSchoolELA

Short Stories

Melissa: Build your own reading guide.

Fall is the perfect time to teach short stories. Because of their brevity, it’s a simple way to fold in many important skills. But, it can be annoying if you have to find new teaching materials every time you switch texts. Instead, try using these versatile resources to build your own short story analysis guides. Differentiate and focus in on the skills your students really need to develop!

Here are three different options aligned with Common Core Standards that you can use with any text. Keep them on hand for mini lessons and more: Analytical Graphic Organizers, Build a Reading Guide for Any Short Story, and Comprehension Activities for Any Text.

Short story activities, reading guides, and companions for mini lessons, strategy groups, and more!  Aligned to Common Core Standards. #ShortStories #MiddleSchoolELA

Lauralee: Use mentor sentences.

Short stories work perfectly as a unit or sprinkled throughout the school year. Add mentor sentences and other activities to short story lesson plans, and you can discover different ways to reach students. In fact, short stories are a perfect way to offer student choice!

After you discover words with mentor sentences, build a word wall. Older students WILL build an interactive word wall with you!


Lauralee: The Fault in Our Stars

In September, some teachers like to hook students with high-interest young adult literature. Do you teach The Fault In Our Stars or offer it as independent reading? This free download covers assessment for the first chapter. 

Melissa: Banned Books and Censorship

The last week of September is Banned Books Week. It’s an annual celebration of the freedom to read, and it is an opportunity to spotlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Educate students on literary censorship with this banned books mini unit, including important vocabulary, background information, and a short jigsaw research assignment. Of course, get informed about your administration’s and community’s expectations surrounding these discussions before beginning.

Banned books and censorship lesson plan for high school #HighSchoolELA #BannedBooks


Melissa: Use brain-based practice activities.

Get into a rhythm with vocabulary instruction through regular, brain-based learning opportunities. Try mixing activities like this free vocabulary download into learning stations, differentiated choice boards, and more.

Free brain-based vocabulary activity for middle or high school #VocabularyActivity #MiddleSchoolELA

Lauralee: Study vocabulary and grammar in context.

Study vocabulary and grammar in context so that students find meaning from the words. When students interact with new words in a variety of ways, they are more likely to own those words. The activities in this mentor sentence bundle will also help students understand the text.

We hope this list of activities and resources will help you plan meaningful lessons for the month of September!

Read Next…

October Lesson Planning Guide

Writing Grammar Lessons

Short Story Unit Teaching Ideas

ELA Lesson Plans for the Month of September #LessonPlans #SecondaryELA

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