A New Semester Begins - National Council of Teachers of English
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A New Semester Begins

As a university instructor, I am prepping for the start of the new semester. A new semester brings with it a new beginning, as well as some changes. Here are some of the things on my mind this time in the academic year:

Preservice Teachers

Many preservice teachers start with a new class at the beginning of the semester. The Council Chronicle article “Developing a New Metaphor for the Teacher-Student Teacher Relationship” shares the story of two student teachers. The author shares his belief that seeing a student teacher as a colleague and not an assistant can have tangible benefits in the classroom.

Inquiry/Independent Study

The Semester Project: The Power and Pleasures of Independent Study” from English Journal describes an independent study project – purposely amorphous in design. As described in the article, this project would not replace any of the regular literature or writing work done in class (or the normal outside requirements) but would be an enhancement to the regular curriculum. ReadWriteThink.org has numerous open-ended projects including “It’s My Life: Multimodal Autobiography Project“. Here, students express themselves verbally, visually, and musically by creating multimodal autobiographies, exchanging ideas with other students and sharing important events in their lives through digital presentations.

Book Club

At the start of the new semester, many educators try new and different things. “Watch Out, Oprah! A Book Club Assignment for Literature Courses“, from Teaching English in the Two-Year College, describes a practice for incorporating more novels into community college literature courses and for sparking student interest in reading. The article presents a book club assignment that includes both collaborative activities and a group presentation. Children can enjoy a community-building experience by meeting with friends to choose, read, and discuss books together in this activity from ReadWriteThink.org.

Goal Setting

In order to promote critical thinking and goal setting within a developmental writing and first-year composition classes, the authors begins the first class session by completing the standard introductions and syllabus discussions and finish with a brief discussion of setting and achieving goals as described in “Goal Setting and Reflection: From Day One to Final Exam.”


The start of a new semester is a great time to start a service-learning project. Service-learning projects help teachers and students come together in new ways, demonstrate how language skills can help accomplish real-life tasks, and engage students in a way that spurs them to learn more thoroughly and quickly. The Voices from the Middle article “New Puzzles/Next Moves: Service-Learning: Using the Language Arts to Make a Difference” shares lessons, project ideas, and outcomes. In “The Great Service-Learning Debate & Research Project” from ReadWriteThink.org, students debate about incorporating service-learning into their school’s curriculum.

Fresh Start

The English Leadership Quarterly issue “Revisiting the First Day of School” contains many ideas for the start of the semester. Articles included are “First Day of a New Semester,” “Homework Assignment for Teachers: Learn Students’ Names,” and “A Positive Classroom Climate: Create It . . . Sustain It.”

What are your plans for the new semester?