Today was the first day back for teachers. We came, we talked, we felt like we'd never really left. There are lots of new teachers, it's hard to believe that I was there just a year ago (and there weren't nearly so many of us last year!). But, you don't really care about the meetings or how I organized blocks this morning, what this post is actually about is the first days for students. I've done these activities in some combination or other for the past several years and I think they all set the tone I want in my classroom.
Start of year questionnaire: It's a fairly basic one with the focus being getting to know them a bit and having them set down some goals. While they're filling it out, I fill one out on the projector, the message being: I'll share with you if you'll share with me. The last question asks "Is there anything else you think I should know about you?" I tell them that I can only hear out of my left ear (so it's a much better idea to wave than call out to get my attention) but I get a really wide variety of responses, maybe I'll share some of my favorites next week.
Index card game: As students finish I distribute index cards and instruct them NOT to put their name on it, but to write down one thing from their questionnaire and one thing they did over the summer (both that they don't mind sharing). When everyone is done I collect and shuffle the cards, then redistribute and have them make some predictions on how many people they will need to ask to find out whose card they have. Then, I make every single one of them get up and out of their seat! It's a crazy thing to do on the first day, but the truth is we move around, talk to each other (teachers and students) and make a bit of noise all the time in my class. Finally, we compare numbers and do a bit of data analysis. If there's time I have them introduce whoever they have the card for, and they introduce whoever they have etc. Then we get to analyze the number and size of loops too.
Turtle: I have accumulated quite the variety of expanding sponge sea creatures along with packaging that makes various claims about how much it will expand. Each class will get one to measure, interpret the claims and then predict and track its growth. Splashing in water is fun, plus I get to see who knows how to use a ruler. You think I'm kidding but it's really an issue.
Syllabus: On to the second class, we read the syllabus together. Every year I try to be even more up front and clear about my expectations. The only rules I have are be safe and be respectful, so we get to work together to interpret them.
From there in Geometry we'll head into patterns and conjectures and in Learning Skills we'll start working on some logic problems (we have no idea what level these kids are, so I'm trying to assess their thinking skills without overwhelming anyone with mathematical notation).