First Day 2017-18

The FIRST DAY is SO EXCITING!  Even though I am not ready to go back to school yet (I still have so much I wanted to get done and …. SUMMER), I love thinking about the first day back.  I can’t wait to actually meet and interact with the amazing young learners that I will get to work with this year.  Their enthusiasm for learning is at a high the first days of school and I am excited to harness that and turn it into amazing math!

I do not go over my course guidelines the first day.  I would rather spend that day getting to know my kids, having them get to know each other, and playing with math!  I have found that it is better to go over one guideline every day or so in the first few weeks, as they naturally come up.  I usually say, “Refer to this place in your syllabus.” in response to a student question.  This reminds students that the syllabus taped in their notebooks is a great place to look for important information that they may need.

Sarah Vanderwerf is a thoughtful educator and you should definitely follow her blog if you don’t already.  Basically my entire first day is coming from her!  Last year I did Sarah’s name tents and I loved them!  I think my students liked them as well because later in the year I learned that some students had shared part of their name tent on Snapchat.  I also noticed some of them kept their name tents in their notebooks.  Even though replying to name tents took a lot of work the first week, getting to know each of my students better was worth it, especially if they appreciated it as well.  I also did Sarah’s 100’s Task later in the week last year.  But I loved it so much I am doing it on the first day this year!

Our first day has very short class periods, only 25 minutes long, so I don’t have time for much. We still have almost two weeks until school starts so my first day plans aren’t firmed up completely yet, but this is what I am thinking.

  • Greet students at the door with a Hi-Five and instruct them to look for their seat.
  • I always have a seating chart the first day to help ease student anxiety.  I will have their names on their tables and may even project it.
  • Name tents will be waiting at their tables to give them something to start on before class starts.  I am a die hard “bell to bell” teacher and there is no better time to start this than the first day! I will have an example name tent for them on each table.
  • Display what they need for my class this year and briefly talk about it while they finish their name tents.
  • Have student introduce themselves to the other students at their table.
  • Have each student write down their favorite movie, ice cream, and vacation spot.  Then each table group compares answers to determine the favorite move, ice cream and vacation spot of the group.  After they finish, they will share their group answers with the class.  We did this in our CPM training and it was a fun and low stress ice breaker activity.  (I may not have time for this, and may have to push it to day 2).  I will pass out textbooks during this time.
  • 100’s Task!  I will take pics of the action!
  • Discuss 100’s Task and share the pics I took to show them what great group work looks like! I’m not sure how I will record this yet.  I will either write it on the white board or type their responses into a google doc so I can print it out and share it with them.  (I may do this on day 2 so I have time for the ice breaker above).
  • Closing. I’m terrible at class closure.  I’m going to set a 5 minute timer on my watch so I can remind myself daily to close the lesson.  Not sure what this looks like yet. They will need to clean up their tables and turn in their name tents.  I don’t know if I will have time for an additional closing activity!  This may just be a time for me to say goodbye and have a great day!

First Day with Make It Stick, Jo Boaler, and Plickers

I want students to be less stressed before math tests.  I do not want them cramming the day before, asking me how to do every review problem because they have already forgotten, then asking me for more review problems to work.  I want students to connect the ideas not only of the current unit, but of the previous math ideas that are also incorporated into the current material.  I would love if students saw math as connected ideas, rather than “a long list of procedures” to be memorized.  I want students to learn conceptually, not procedurally.

This is tough to accomplish, as many of their math classes have been taught procedurally.  I used to think that they would be so happy to have me as their teacher!  I throw the rules of math class out of the window, and help them discover concepts on their own!  However, I found last year that this was not the case with many of my students.  Many were uncomfortable with the fact that I was disrupting their flow.  These honors math students have been successful for many, many years learning the formulas and practicing, practicing, practicing until it was perfect.  And their grade was perfect.  They didn’t want to struggle to “discover the formula”.  Struggling and not knowing make them feel insecure.  Instead, they wanted the formula right away – so they could have more time to learn it, practice it, and get a jump start on tonight’s homework!  They did not want me wasting their time.  I kept telling them this was not the best way, but they did not believe me.  So instead of telling them this year, I am going to have them read the research for themselves.

For the first day this year, the students will enter the room and then write their thoughts to these questions. (questions are a work in progress)

  1. What is math?
  2. Finish these sentences:
    1. The people that are the best math students….
    2. The best way to learn a new math concept is to…
  3. How do you study for a math test?

I will then give them a Plickers survey to find out their thoughts on math as a class. I use Plickers the first day because a few students will not have their technology ready. Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 8.46.54 AM

We will briefly discuss their answers and then I am going to show them this four minute video by Jo Boaler.

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I need to ask them to write after seeing this video.  I’m still working on that and would love any thoughts or suggestions.

For homework, I am going to have them read excerpts from Make It Stick, The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown.

This fabulous book talks about how people learn, and what you can do to make learning stick.  It is full of real life examples and specific strategies.  The ideas and strategies are summarized in one of the last chapters of the book.  After having them write and discuss how they think they learn best, I am going to have my students read some excerpts of this chapter, then discuss it as a class.  This should benefit them not only in math class, but in most of their other classes as well.

The next day in class, students will pick out what they felt was the most important ideas from the reading and share them.  From this, they will decide on a learning goal for the year.  I then had them fill out  a Google Form to record their “one thing” they wanted to try from “Make It Stick”.

Stick

I will keep doing discovery and conceptual learning in my classes.  I am also replacing “massed practice” with interleaving practice and lagging homework this year.  I am hopeful that having knowledge about how people learn will open their minds to this new style of homework.  Winning over their mindset is half the battle!

This is all still a work in progress!  And if you want to join in on the planning, I’d love to have you!  I will also be talking about my first day plan at the Global Math Department Webinar this Tuesday evening at 9pm EST.  Please join in the conversation!  I hope to have it more polished by then, as I start school August 17th!

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Julie Reulbach

The Files:

The amazing Meg Craig made a booklet foldable that is the entire activity in one!    I love collaboration!  (I pretty much copied hers for my one sheet).  🙂
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MS Sunday Funday – First Day / First Week Activities

Hi!  Be sure to follow me on Twitter for more updates!  I am @jreulbach.  🙂

Welcome to a collaboration of posts by amazing middle school math teachers!

This week’s theme is First Day / First Week Activities.  Next week, the theme will be sharing how you have your students set up their math class notebooks.  This can be interactive notebooks or traditional notebooks.

To submit a blog, click on this link.

** Brand new blogger!