Archive for August 11th, 2012

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First Day of School

August 11, 2012

(#HSSunFun) First Day post

I hadn’t orignally planned to blog about my first day of school plans, because I thought they were pretty boring and unimaginative, but maybe there’s something here somebody else might find useful.

Seating Chart
Since I usually don’t know the students, I decided a couple of years ago, it was pretty silly to spend a lot of time working out a seating chart. My room has seven tables that each seat four students, so I have 4 sets of popsicle sticks numbered from 1 to 7 (if I have a small class, I will remove a number). I put them in a mug, number end down, and have the students draw one as they enter my class. That is their table number. I keep an eye out to see who tries to switch numbers (so I know where not to put them). Once everyone is seated, I have a little half-sheet at each table for them to put their names on so I have my seating chart.

Personal Information Card

After several years, I think I’ve settled on the things I want to know about my students when they first walk in.

One of the most important things to me is to call my students what they wish to be called. There have been a number of times in which a student will tell me, “Miss, how did you know to call me XXX?”, and I will reply that that’s what he wrote on his information card. I transfer that name to my roll sheet and my seating chart.

I also like knowing what the students’ interests are (although it can be somewhat scary and/or hilarious at times). It’s especially useful with my seniors, because I can tailor my presentations a little bit more towards their interests and aspirations.

One of the saddest parts of the card is the “dislike” section. By far, the most common response is “yells and screams at me.” Another popular response is “doesn’t help me.” Now, having been a teacher for a few years, I know that many times a student’s perception of “not helping” means “she didn’t give me the answers”, so I take that one with a grain of salt. I do find it useful to find out which kids really hate being called upon.

Other Paperwork
The only other paperwork I pass out on the first day is the course calendar and course description (Geometry) or syllabus (Algebra III). I used to have Geometry students have their parents sign off on the course description, but I haven’t done so for the last couple of years. After reading this excellent post, I may rethink that and send home a letter just for the parents (especially if I can come up with a pithy way to explain SBG). Because we get such an influx of students after Labor Day (we start Aug. 27th), I don’t pass out books on the first day of school.

Introduction PowerPoint
Like many other teachers, I have an introductory powerpoint–mainly to make sure I don’t forget things. I share a little bit about my background and interests, and then I outline the course, grading, and expectations. I’ve read a few posts from people who are going to hold off or skip going over rules and procedures and jump right into learning. While I can see their reasoning (for many students, the first day of school is the closest they get to being excited about learning–it’s all downhill from there, so why waste that potential?), I just don’t feel comfortable not laying out norms and boundaries.

An idea I’m kicking around is to show several minutes from a cricket match (YouTube has bunches). After that, I would ask if anyone has any idea of what went on. I expect to hear crickets chirping. Then I would show several minutes of a baseball game (go Rangers!). Ask the same question. The point I want to make is that when we understand the object and rules of the game, it’s a lot more exciting. Math can work the same way.

Math Stuff
Last year, for the first time, we had a regular schedule on the first day of school (we had previously had shortened classes to ensure that everyone was registered into the system and that students knew where to go). We’re assuming that will also be the case this year, so we will then have a short introductory lesson. My Algebra III kids will have homework; I’m not sure yet about Geometry.

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What Our Students Tell Us

August 11, 2012

I just read (via Mrs. L) a very interesting post (especially for a first-ever post!) by Angie that made me stop and think.

I asked one particular teacher what she had learned about her students and about what they knew/didn’t know from observing their involvement in the activity. She wasn’t sure what I meant and so I explained to her what I was thinking and observing during the lesson (who was on or off task, who got the “point” of the activity and who needed me to ask a leading question or two, who wanted me to tell them the answer, who didn’t do anything at all, who seemed to have a misconception that needed addressing ….) She said to me, “ I was just trying to implement the activity correctly; I didn’t know I should be watching for those things!”

I also often find myself getting so involved in my day-to-day activities that I don’t take advantage of stepping back and observing my students and how they respond.

As I thought about the list of questions Angie asks herself, I realized that I generally do know a lot of those things about a lot of my students. If you were to ask me who was likely to be off-task I, or almost any other teacher, could give you a fairly accurate list. What I’m realizing though is that it is all instinctual, not intentional, and it is somewhat superficial.

I’m definitely going to be doing some thinking about this in the next couple of weeks. One thing that comes to mind is that I don’t just want to depend on my memory for these things, so I need to put together some sort of framework and data entry system.