One of the tricky objectives to cover at the beginning of the year is to teach your students how to write content specific essays (ex. Document Based Questions (DBQs), Source Based Questions, Lab Reports, Personal Narratives, etc.) using texts from your content (primary sources, evidence gathered from a lab, fictional texts, etc.). My favorite way of introducing the format I want students to use is through a non-content related topic. For example, in my World History class students had to write essays (DBQs) using primary sources and so the first essay we tried was a DBQ on me that used primary sources not from history but from my own life. This serves the dual purpose of 1) teaching my students how to write using the correct format and 2) introducing more of myself to the class via an important academic skill – feeding two birds with one hand. I can uses the text to teach my students annotation and careful reading as well as the format I want them to use to write their essays. When we are finished, I show them an exemplar response I wrote and have them compare their essays to both the exemplar and to the official rubric we will use throughout the year.
I think this could easily be adapted for a science lab, poetry unit (write a biographical poem), or math paper. I know other teachers do similar lessons at the beginning of the year and I would love for people to share them out here . . . borrow and steal.