Ideas for Starting the new school year

Dr. Rachelle Dené Poth
7 min readSep 5, 2023


It seems that summer passes by so quickly every year. We are so busy throughout the school year and sometimes miss out on trying new ideas or exploring new tools. However, we have the summer break to reflect and explore new experiences and it is an opportunity to take time to recharge. Before we know it, we are back in our classrooms and looking for some new ideas and ways to engage students in learning.

There are so many resources out there to explore for educators and sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming to find something that works well. Or, you want to create some new learning experiences for students and help them to develop a variety of skills beyond just the content area that we are teaching.

With the start of a new school year, I think it’s a great time to explore some new ideas. We need ideas that not only help students to build their skills in the content area but also help them to develop essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills, learn about the world around them, and be prepared for whatever the future may bring.

As the summer draws to a close, it’s the perfect opportunity to set the tone for a successful academic year. Let’s explore a few ideas for back-to-school that will help us to kickstart the year.

It’s important that we get to know our students, their interests, and what their specific needs are. A fun way to do this would be to encourage students to select a topic of interest from the PebbleGo Library and then use PebbleGo Create to share what they know about the topic and also to include some information about themselves. This is a great way to get to know our students and for students to get to know each other. When we do this, it helps us to build a successful and thriving learning community. You can also check out the lesson plan for “ Making a New Friend” and explore the different articles available!

We want students to be successful and at the start of the year, it’s a good opportunity to set up some structure to help students set learning goals. Work with students to establish a clear vision for the academic year by setting personal and academic goals. Encourage students to think about what they want to achieve and how they plan to get there. Guide them to create realistic and achievable goals, and work with them to review progress throughout the year. When students set goals, it can help to motivate them, promote greater focus, and build valuable skills like time management and self-discipline which are essential SEL skills.

It’s always a great opportunity to start a new school year to have some fun getting to know each other and build those relationships. In the new school year or new class, students are often curious about what they will be learning. What better way than to use the Curiosity Game to get students excited about learning and then share that learning with classmates!

We want students to develop a love of reading and what better way than to create a book club in your classroom. Students can explore the diverse range of resources available from PebbleGo on so many different topics. We can have book talks in our classes and students can use PebbleGo Create to share a little about their book. These opportunities will foster critical thinking, creativity, and communication skills. It will also get students excited about reading!

An activity that is a lot of fun because we get to learn about students and their interest is genius hour. With genius hour, students choose a topic or an area of interest and then research it and create something to share with everyone else. It gives them a chance to share their genius. A great way to do this is by using the lesson plan available through PebbleGo. Students choose their research topic, have time to explore and then they can create with PebbleGo Create to share that learning and their excitement with their classmates. An activity like this also helps students to become more independent in learning which is a valuable learning experience as we want to prepare them for the future and develop student agency.

Back-to-school can sometimes bring feelings of anxiety and stress. We can help students to learn about health and wellness and create using PebbleGo Create to share tips for others! It is so beneficial for students and ourselves when we introduce mindfulness and stress-relief activities into our daily routine. It will help students cope with the challenges that can arise with academics and provide them with ways to deal with stress, or improve focus, concentration, and their overall well-being. Understanding their emotions is important for academic success.

You can even have students create something simple to reflect what they have learned and share it in class. So many wonderful options available to explore! Just choose one to start and then add in the others throughout the year to mix things up a bit, boost student engagement and spark curiosity for learning.

With so many already in or heading back to school, these ideas can offer a bit of a different approach to start the academic year with excitement, enthusiasm, and purpose. By fostering a positive and engaging learning environment, helping students with setting goals, encouraging peer interactions, and incorporating interactive methods, students and educators can experience a rewarding educational journey.

Starting with these ideas can help students to build relationships, be mindful of their well-being, focus on their academic growth and enjoy learning! It can help with making this academic year one to remember. Happy back-to-school!

About Rachelle

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at

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About the Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books, “In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” (EduMatch), and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s latest book is with ISTE “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World.” True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-Person and Digital Instruction and Things I Wish […] Knew.

Rachelle is a blogger for Edutopia, Getting Smart, Defined Learning, and NEO LMS.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter and on Instagram . Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU

Originally published at on September 5, 2023.



Dr. Rachelle Dené Poth

I am a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Tech Teacher, Attorney, Author and Blogger, Learning Enthusiast and EdTech Consultant