I read this article a few days before school started, and it really got me thinking. The gist is that I want to start with my actually curriculum, rather than “cool/fun math” activities because I don’t want to send any subtle messages that the curriculum is too boring to start on day one…or the curriculum can’t build community. The quote that stuck with me is:
“if you’re teaching content well, the class culture stuff will fall into place.”
So here is a run down of how my classes tackled Day 1:
- When students enter, they fill out a notecard with name, best person to contact at home, favorite number, and if you were a creature, what would you be and why. I found this summer that changing the word animal to creature allowed for a wider umbrella, including fictional creatures, plants, and Cinderella.
- When students enter, they also fold a large notecard in half and make a nameplate. I have them use markers (I provide) and write their name (just first name, what they want to be called) on both sides of the nameplate, in case it gets turned around.
- While students are filling out the notecard and nameplate, I quickly go around the room taking a picture of each one with my phone. I make sure to get the nameplate in the picture. I now have a photo directory to learn students names at home.
Here’s what the first slide of the day looks like for all my classes:
- After quick introductions (tell me one thing about you I can’t tell just by looking), I pass out the syllabus. On Day 1, I only have students look at the supply list. I don’t go over anything else. I will go over other parts (homework policy, grading, etc) when those things actually arise the first time (i.e. when I give the first homework, when the first quiz grade is put in the grade book, etc).
- Next, I do want to get students talking more about classroom rules and culture, but I do it in the form of Talking Points (a la Elizabeth Statmore). Here is my list of statements. I leave some blank space at the end for students to come up with their own controversial statements. They have a lot of fun with those!
- Now that we are about half-way through the class period, in the spirit of that article I mentioned above, I have students work on content. In Calculus, it was the first part of Barfing Monsters (a la Sam Shah). In my Integrated 3 (think Algebra II) class, it was this great problem that I got from Bill Thill and Peg Cagle about patterns (see the picture below). It’s a great open ended problem, that eventually lets students pull sooooo much math from a simple pattern. Students create linear and quadratic equations based on what they use to fill in the blank.
- Lastly, inspired by Sara Van Der Werf, I have students write about their thoughts on the first day of class inside their nameplate they created. Just a sentence or two. That evening, I write back to each student, and we continue to have a brief written, private conversation in this nameplate throughout the first week. It does wonders for making connections and building relationships!
- The homework for the first week is to email me two paragraph about themselves in general and as a math student. It’s called a Mathography, and in the first weeks of school, I respond to each email.