This is a great time to gather ideas from each other for those important first days when we re-enter our classroom and meet our students for the new school year.
What will you do the first week of school to set the tone for learning?
Note: Join the I Teach group where we encourage our new teachers to share their questions and concerns our more experienced members to share their experience.
The first day of school my students receive a letter from me. In it I tell them a bit about myself and my summer. With this letter I effectively model their first assignment. They are each to write me a letter and tell me a bit about themself and how they spent their summer. I enjoy reading their letters my first night and getting to know my students. From this letter, I can also gauge each of my new student's writing skills.
Great idea, Dorothy!
I created a scavenger hunt for my students and have attached a sample copy that anyone is welcome to edit to meet their needs.
My idea isn't as original as yours, but I do like to get my students moving periodically during class time and this is a fun activity for any age group.
I think those are both great ideas to start of the year. With either of these ideas it would be fairly easy to personalize it to the student or class (if you know background about your students going prior to the first days).
I will be starting my second year teaching this year, and will be teaching 3rd grade again. Last year I was not hired into the district until 6 weeks into the school year and I defintely saw the impact the first days of school can have on the climate of the classroom for the entire year. The long-term sub my class was with was great, but did not have a strong enough education background to really form a solid foundation for me to enter into with the students. I have not yet planned my back to school activities, but I do know that I will be spending a great deal of time developing structure and expectations, while having lots of fun!
In the secondary schools where I taught, we had a handbook that was given to each student the first day of school. Students could copy their schedules on the first page and then read the policies regarding attendance, tardies, cafeteria procedures, use of cell phones, dress code, course descriptions, etc.
I created a list of questions related to the information in the handbook. Students answered the questions, and then I gave them credit for completing the assignment. This activity provided a good way to discuss the school policies and make certain that each student read the handbook.
I read a book called The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns in order to teach students to respect differences. We all learn in different ways. The next day we make graphs of our talents, everybody is talented at something. I hang this graph up all year to remind students we are all talented in different ways.
I use it in 7 and 8th grade. It is a great children's book about shapes..I let the students chorus in on the next shape..I point out we all learn in our own time.. It takes the triangle a lot of time to figure it out...Those that try learn...he tries and tries and tries. It is ok to ask for help.. he asks the shape changer for help..It's good to learn from your mistakes..I hang up little posters with some "truths about Learning" to remind students to be respectful. On the talent graph, each class has a list of talents based on their response. They use this as categories on the x-axis and never tried, novice, good, great, awesome for rating themselves against others talents...no two graphs are a like. Next, I combine all 6 classes and make a frequency graph out of the data. I have them peer edit their graphs the next day, using a rubric and we hang them up.
What I would like to see in this space are some suggestions from teachers about how they are going to alert students to the fact that things are going to be different this year, as it is the beginning of the new Common Core regime.
One of the basic changes is that students are going to learn to spend more time reading serious and important informational texts and demonstrate that they understand these readings.
They are also going to learn how to write evidence based arguments based on these texts rather than personal essays or "text to self" writing.
One thing I would like to try on the first day of school is to NOT go over the syllabus and classroom expectations. Instead, have an engaging learning activity where students get to interact with the content and collaborate with each other. Now, I am not sure what that will be, but perhaps adapting a scavenger hunt related to course content. If I had access to computers, perhaps I would have each group create a story of relevant recent social media related to the course using Storify. This would allow students to get a feel for the course content and recent events related to it.
Since traditionally, students are given syllabus and expectations on the first day, at the end of class, I would provide a one pager for parents and students listing my classroom website and the general information for the course. If parents wanted, they could view the syllabus on my classroom website.
We have so little time with our students. I want them to start learning and being engaged on day 1.
I was just reading an article in eSchoolNews this week about a project that is focusing on the first five days of school and how important those days are for setting the tone and getting to know students. Alan November has kicked off a project called "First Five Days" in which he aims to find out what can make thse first few days relevant and to help establish a culture of learning. You can read more about his project at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/07/19/new-project-aims-to-transform-the-first-five-days-of-school/
Building a positive learning communitty is the most important responsibility in the first week of school. I just did some Kagen training and am looking forward to implementing some of the activities. We have so little time in the class year, the first week is so important. It sets the tone for the rest of the year.
Has anyone seen this slideshow by Tom Barrett--36 Interesting Ways to Get to Know Your New Class? Which of these tips do you think you might use? Please share how well one or more of these activities worked in your classroom.
I did the following activity with an older group of students that had already had one class together. I had everyone put an unusual/interesting fact about themselves on a post it and then put them on the board. I asked for a volunteer to write the name of their guess on the board and match the post-it to it for everyone in the class. I then asked for a second volunteer whose post-it was wrong to fix theirs, circle it and move the rest around until they were happy with the bunching of names and post-its. I then asked for a third volunteer whose Post-it was wrong to fix theirs, circle it and move the rest around until they were happy with the bunching of names and Post-its. This continued until all the Post-its were with the right name and circled. It was a good way to keep repeating the names and learn something new about each other.
What fun idea! And for those of us in the teacher's seat, it helps us get those names right the first day. The students learn some not so well-known facts about each other and the class starts out in a very friendly way.
I have also watched teachers who struggle with names make a point of calling students by their name in the hall, on the playground, in the grocery store. anything to let each student know they are important and knowing their name is the first step.
Thank you for sharing your great idea here, Jeffrey.
One of the things I plan to do differently this year is to educate my parents on how to set the tone at home for their child to perform better at school.
5 Tips for Parents
It is going to be a good year!!!
Communicating with parents is extremely important in helping their children succeed in school. Making your expectations known to students and parents at the beginning of the school year really sets a positive tone and makes them feel well informed and ready to support your efforts.
This year I am planning to use the Interactive Notebooks. I have been doing research on this concept and it sounds like a great idea to set the tone for learning. I have always done portfolios, but the IN seems to integrate reflection on a daily bases. I found a great prezi to show my students and then created my own. Check it out at Copy of Interactive Math Notebooks (WHY) by Patricia Maia on Prezi and Interactive Notebooks in Math by Patricia Maia on Prezi .
This looks like a great way to engage students and give them an opportunity to reflect frequently on their learning progress as well as maintain a digital portfolio. What grade level are you teaching?
Here are some apps for digital portfolios that may interest you and other teachers in the Community:
For a description of each of these sites and ideas for incorporating them into your classroom, I recommend reading "8 Educational Apps To Create Digital Portfolios" published in TeachThought (March 4, 2013).
If others are using digital portfolios, please share your experiences with us.
I am currently teaching 7th grade/8th grade math and do not have much access to technology. I have my Interactive whiteboard and one computer 156 students. I am trying to set up the Interactive Math Notebook on livebinders and it will incorporate their notes, classwork and reflections the old fashion hand written way. I would love to set up an online version of their portfolio, but not all students have access. Google sites is good to use. I know a high school teacher that uses this with her students. I set up a Google sites for my School Improvement team it was easy and I love the Google calendar. I put a link to my Weebly site and I only have to update in one place.