Consider thematic units that may be drawn from Essential Questions. Once you decide on themes or essential questions for the first unit or marking period, you could ask the students to choose the themes/questions for the subsequent ones. Almost any piece of fiction/non-fiction can be adapted to address the general questions you’re likely to choose. Here’s a good site to check out for a variety of literature organized in lots of ways to help find fresh readings in different genres. COMMONLIT:ORG
Next, begin building on the skills you know the students generally are taught in the previous year paying special attention to the academic language they may have forgotten but will need to know very well be be successful this year and those to come as long as they are formal or informal students.
Decide on general grading guidelines and share them with students within the first week, not necessarily the first day. Instead, post on your website or include in syllabus packet. See ideas here.
Video clips to consider. Non-Fiction Rap (Although done by younger students, the video is worth sharing even with high school students. When I show it, I just tease my older students with something like, “I imagine you know this already, but let’s take a moment to review the terms before moving on to applying this skill on the anthology/book/text you have in front of you. This way no one is embarrassed about not knowing or having forgotten terms.)
Another little clip is on evaluating websites in on this link. These are British sites and American students may chuckle at the accents, but should the videos informative enough. Sometimes the chuckling is just enough to get to them pay attention when you show it the second time. These work well in a lesson that includes an assignment for students to conduct on-line research.
Check out other sample lessons on the RANGE OF RESOURCES: COMMON CORE AIDS. Feel free to adapt as needed to fit your teaching situation.
As your new students get to know you and understand that you know where they’ve been and where they’re going, they’ll learn to trust and cooperate with the range of assignments you’ll design to build on what they knowledge and skills learned last year and what they’ll need to know and be able to do next year.