Saturday, September 8, 2018

First Week 2018 Recap

In the years past, I tried to begin the curriculum as quickly as possible.  Usually this meant we were starting on the second or third day.  This year I considered all of the things I wanted to do to get to know my students, and it just made sense to spread them out over the first three days.  This allowed me to get everything done (almost).  Normally I end up over planning, and then stressing about getting everything done.  Spreading everything out was a welcome change.

Wednesday, September 5th
Our very first day started with the instructions to fill out an"All About Me" page and scan the syllabus.  My goal was to not rush students through the "All About Me" questionnaire.  This year, I used the questionnaire from Five Foot One Teacher (@fivefootoneteacher on Instagram).  It is available from her First Day of School Packet on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Overall, I liked the questionnaire.  It asked questions that I usually wouldn't ask.  However, if I use it again next year, I am going to have to make a few adaptations.  Very few students understood the prompt "My family consists of...", the question about goals suggests becoming a better reader or writer, which is not totally applicable to math, and one question asks about what students did over the summer.  After reading a post on facebook about how some students are just surviving the summer, the question does not sit well with me, especially because I work in a school district with at least 70% of the student population living in poverty.

After students finished the questionnaire, I went over the highlights of the syllabus, but didn't go over every little thing.  I encouraged them to read the syllabus (it was part of their Do Now after all).  Then we went over the important safety information.  I did no other rules after that because I wanted to students to understand how important our safety procedures are.  I did a brief "About Me" presentation.  When I was a student I always liked the teachers that shared a little personal information the most.  It helps students to see that you are human and relatable, and that you have more to teach than just your subject area.  I keep it simple.  I share my age, astrological sign, family info (husband, baby, pets, birth order), my favorite things, and my high school activities.

Side note:  I shared that I was the Battalion Executive Officer (2nd in command) of my NJROTC unit.  We don't have a JROTC in our school, so I get to explain a little about it.  I am proud to share that I am teaching a future Marine, and he salutes the flag every morning during the pledge.  I then had the opportunity to give him some pointers on his positioning.  A deeper connection was made.

The highlight of my first day was playing "Save the Dinosaur!"  This is from another Teachers Pay Teachers product from Five Foot One Teacher. (The original activity is titled "Save the Chicken," but I had a dinosaur instead.)  I don't want to share exactly how the game works because it is all explained in the product, but here is what I can share:  The game can engage the whole class.  It is a team effort, so if your students try to resist, they will be peer pressured into participating.  Students will need to strategize to complete the task, so you will see your natural leaders emerge, and get a sense of how your students approach challenges.  It was very low prep; I just had to act out a part and purchase a toy dinosaur.  I made this a competition between classes, so I also had Jolly Ranchers for the winning classes.  My only disappointment was that my students had a good strategy right away, so I didn't get to witness too much trial and error.

For the first time ever, I had extra time at the end of the first day.  I gave my students time to catch up with each other.  If I use the same plans next year, I want to have a simple, no-prep back-up activity ready.

Thursday, September 6th
I started the second day with a syllabus quiz. (It's not a real quiz.)  I projected 7 questions on the SMART Board, and had students answer in teams.  I used these buzzers from Amazon to make it more engaging.  Students in my smaller classes loved it.  Doing this activity with my one large class was a struggle.  I wish they had a set of 6 buzzers, but I worked with what I had.  We went over the basic rules about cell phone use and tardies.

Then we had a scavenger hunt to help students familiarize themselves with the classroom.  I taped cards around the room anywhere there was something I wanted students to know about and/or use.  Each card displayed what the item was, a description of what it was for, and somewhere in the description was one letter that was bolder and larger than the others.  After finding all the things, students had to unscramble the letters to reveal a message.  Students worked quietly throughout the activity, but it took forever.  On the student's recording sheet they were asked to identify each item, explain it's purpose and location, and record the letter from the card.  I've already decided to use this activity again next year, but I'm going to type the purpose for each item onto the record sheet so student's only need to find the item and the enlarged letter.

Friday, September 7th 
On Thursday, I intended to go over the procedures after completing the scavenger hunt (when students knew what I was talking about and where it was).  I had to do this on Friday instead.  For the Do Now, I projected each class' assigned seating arrangement.  (I number my desks, so I simply list each number, and the type the students' names next to their seat numbers.)  I started each class with an "Algebra Skills Inventory," and then we went over the entrance and exit procedures.

I decided to save the 100 Numbers Task for this day because I wanted students to experience working together with their table partners.  It also served as an ice breaker for any students that did not already know their table partners.  I'm sure everyone knows about the 100 Numbers Task by now, but if you don't, check out the original post from Sarah Van Der Werf.  Instead of giving out Jolly Ranchers for the team that found the most numbers, I gave the Jolly Ranchers to the team that had the greatest improvement.

After the 100 Numbers Task, I introduced Five Foot One Teacher's One Word Project.  The basic premise is that students choose a word they want to live up to for the year, and meditate on the word while writing it out repeatedly.  I love this whole idea.  It's an informal and different way to set a goal for the year, and I love that it is about becoming a better version of yourself and not about grades.  I made an exemplar to show students, and I chose the word 'Fearless.'  I opened up to my students that I chose the word because there are so many things I want to try to make myself a better teacher for them, but since these things are out of my comfort zone, I usually chicken out.  Being fearless when trying new things is my goal as a teacher this year.

This week has been difficult too.  It's a tough transition becoming a mom, but becoming a back-to-school mom is another thing I am going to have to adapt to.  I love teaching and I'm so happy at school, but I miss my little boy.  My older cat's health is declining and we have to give him subcutaneous fluids twice daily.  He's not eating and it seems it's only a matter of days before we have to say goodbye.  I feel like I'm already super behind in planning, but overall I had a fantastic week of school, and I'm honestly sad this is a three day weekend because I want to be with my students.

See the vlog of my first week here:

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