This week’s Sunday Funday topic is first day of school plans. It’s hard being one of the teachers that don’t go back until September because I don’t want to have to think too hard about such things yet. I want to enjoy the remaining weeks of summer, but I also like to be prepared. Luckily, I actually started planning my first day of school in June before we ended the school year.
I cheat a little. I look at the first two days of school as being the first day. I only have 42 minute periods, so I often teach one topic over two periods. I like to do the same with the first day of school.
On the actual first day (Wednesday, September 6ht):
Students start class by filling out the student survey that I have posted as the Do Now. I either hand these to students as they walk in, or place them on each desk before students arrive. It depends on what I have time for. Handing papers out as students walk in sounds like a great way to introduce myself to them, but on the first day it’s hard to tell if students have your class or are lost, so I will probably aim to have them out on the desks. On the back of the survey, I ask students to answer three questions: (1) What makes a successful math student?; (2) What do you need from your math teacher to be successful?; (3) What do you need from your classmates to be successful?
Last year I did name tents also as the Do Now, but this year I'm on the fence about doing them again. Students were not into it at all last year, and it kind of took the fun out of the activity for me. Plus, getting all of the tents out each day was a pain.
After students complete the Do Now, I tell them the safety information – where to go during a fire drill, and what to do for a lock down drill. I tell students my three main rules, and any other new rules the school may have. I tell them about the supplies that they need to have for class.
I don’t read over the entire syllabus with students, but I go over the highlights with them, and the things they may have to read carefully to understand. Their first homework assignment is to return the parent signature sheet the next day. (I am lenient about accepting this assignment late because the assignment depends on their parents/guardians more than the students.) On the back of the signature sheet is a parent survey that parents may opt to fill out. It has provided some great information in the past.
Toward the end of the period, I will go over an “About Me” presentation and share some information about myself with my students. I make sure to answer the frequently asked questions regarding my age, marital status, pets, and high school sports. (I always get asked what sports I played in high school, but never get asked what instrument I played or what other clubs/activities I was involved in. Isn't that weird?)
At the end of the period, I facilitate a discussion with the students about the 3 questions on the back of their surveys. I have one page in my SMART Notebook file for each question, and I write down their responses. The bell will probably ring as we do this, and I collect the surveys and say goodbye. When I get the chance, I read over their surveys and question answers. I will add any answers to the SMART Notebook file that were good, but not brought up in class.
On the second first day (Thursday, September 7th):
On the second day, students start by taking a growth mindset survey to assess where they are on the fixed-growth mindset continuum. Then I show them a short video explaining growth mindset. (I've used the one about the tortoise and the hare in the past, but I want to find a new video for this year.) We have a short discussion about growth mindset.
Last year, I added a few slides to my presentation using these memes I found online:
With these memes, I share some facts with students like, "you are not going to use everything you learn in school," and "60% of you will have a job that has not been created yet." I essentially have to spend some time exploring the rationale for the class. The big thing that students need to understand is that they may not use most of what they learn in Geometry after high school, and that is not a reason for them to not learn something. I'm going to reference a quote that I have yet to turn into a poster, but it is going to be "I'd rather know something I don't need to know than need to know something that I don't know." The big concern this year is that the students coming up to Geometry failed the Algebra course, but passed the Algebra regents. (This year in particular a student was able to easily pass without even knowing Algebra - they only need 14 2-point questions correct, and they were able to get these correct by knowing how to use the calculator.)
This may sound horrible, but I have to set a tone in the first days to help weed out the students that shouldn't be there. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to teach any student that wants to learn, but most students in my school have a hard time making the transition from Algebra to Geometry. Geometry is difficult. Geometry requires much more work and effort than Algebra. Students spend about 3 years preparing for Algebra. Geometry is like learning math in a foreign language without the years of preparation. I have to make sure my students understand what is expected of them from day one. Students have less than two weeks to change their classes, once those two weeks are up, they are stuck. (If you have any tips/tricks for making this transition easier, please let me know!)
The next thing I do on the second day is reference the questions we discussed on day one about success. These lead us into the rules. The rules are based on what students need to be successful. Then I explain the routines that students need to know for our regular classes.
Then finally, we get to our first activity. I have done a different activity every year. Last year my students and I really enjoyed the 100 Numbers Task. Originally I was planning on repeating this activity, but this year I’m looking for an activity that will simultaneously work as a group work norms establish-er and an ice breaker. I’ll let you know if I find such an activity, but the 100 Numbers Task is my fall-back plan.
At this time, I am planning to begin teaching the last day of our first week (Friday, September 8th). However, if I don't get through everything else I have planned, that day will be used to complete the first week back stuff.