First Day of School

This year I am a grade team leader, so I have a reduced class load. I’m teaching all of the 12th grade (~50 students split into two sections) and two sections of 11th grade advisory. Last year I had three sections of 11th grade, one section of 12th grade, and two sections of 11th grade advisory. The combining of the three class of 2013 cohorts into two cohorts will be a little bit odd. The smaller class sizes (9, 17, and 19) were great. Having a maximum class size of 24 is not bad at all, but I’ll have to scrounge for two more tables and four more chairs before classes start.

The Plan: 

Greet and Seat – Shake students’ hands as they walk in the door. Hand them a Tarsia number match card (inspired by Math in the Middle) to help them find their seat (pre-grouped based on how I knew them last year, mixing the sections). I’m a little miffed that the Tarsia formulator is only for Windows…will have to do that when I get my school laptop back. My intern can help students find their seats as I greet students. We will also check to see if all students seated themselves correctly. Instead of calling out students for being wrong, we will tell a table if one or more students at the table is incorrect (without saying who it is).

Welcome Back – Introduce myself and my intern. Explain that he will be taking over Section 2 for part of the fall/winter. Give an overview of the year (major units and projects, preparation for the IB Math Studies exam, the exam, and the alternative project that non-diploma candidates will complete). Note: I’m not going through a By the Numbers introduction with my students because they all had me for math and advisory last year.

Weekly Seating Change – I started this about midway through last year. I noticed that students worked with the same students every single time we had small group work or a group project. Given that most of them have been together since kindergarten, I thought that we were due for some shaking up. I put the students in different tables each week so they would experience working with new people and different learning styles. They appreciated it (compared to what they may have felt had I simply decreed a completely new seating chart with no friends sitting next to one another and with no explanation), and some found new “school-friendships.”

Respect Exercise – Modify Take it to the Limit‘s respect exercise with the Patriots.

Quiet Coyote – Introduce the Quiet Coyote. I haven’t gotten my “everyone get quiet and focus” routine down immediately in past years, and this year that is going to change. I liked  the “Can I get your eyes up here, please?” routine that I learned in Classroom Management class in grad school, but it didn’t feel authentic when I did it, so it didn’t work for me. I did not like the Zenergy Chime that was so popular in BPS new teacher professional development (PD) classes. Becoming dependent on an external tool to get students quiet seems very inauthentic to me. I definitely do not like plain ol’ yelling. When this is done to me in any sort of class (PD, workout, etc.) I cringe at how students must feel.

Hence, the return to quiet coyote: “his ears are open and his mouth is shut.” Put your middle and ring fingers on your thumb to create the coyote’s shut mouth, and stick your index and pinky fingers up to create the coyote’s ears. If you feel like adding a judging element to your coyote, push the ears forward to create “judging jaguar.” I used this when I was a Brownie Girl Scout troop leader, and it turns out that my 12th graders experienced it in elementary school too. When I debuted the quiet coyote in the middle of the year last year, they waxed nostalgic over it. I like the quiet coyote because it’s calm and allows me to practice “wait time” as well.

Math Challenge – I like the 31 game over at Everybody is a Genius and the observation questions from Coefficients of Determination (listed below and modified for the 31 game versus the diagram ).

1. Are all the students involved? Who is looking around the class or out the window (or whatever) instead of participating in the activity?
2. Who is very focused and studying the game intently?
3. Who simply HAS to talk with his or her neighbor as they process what to do or process how many he or she got correct?
4. Who has to check in with me to see if they’re doing it correctly?
5. Who seems to want to sit back and observe what everyone else is doing before they jump in?
6. Who calls out comments as they’re working?
7. Which students simply can’t concentrate for the short time period you give them to study the diagram? What are they doing? Getting up? Beginning conversations? Fiddling with their “stuff”?
8. As I walk by to see how the students are doing, who wants to talk with me or show me something? Who wants to simply work without interruption?
9. As we discuss our findings, who wants to share? Who seems to want to add their comments more than expected?
10. Which students try to steer the discussion off topic?
11. Which students don’t share at all?

3-2-1 Exit Slip – Give the students the following 3-2-1 writing activity: 3 goals for the year, 2 challenges, and 1 wish.

From Coefficients of Determination: Check the writing the students do for the exit slip.

1. Which students write well? Poorly? Who struggles to communicate their thoughts?
2. Which students invested themselves in the writing task? Who sort of blew it off?
3. Were students able to stay on topic or did they meander all over the place?
4. Who didn’t write anything at all?

Homework – Read syllabus and bring it back the next day for us to go over (practicing organizational skills). Fill out this survey (courtesy Sam Shah and Bowman Dickson).

For advisory, I’ll do Peter Pappasdetective story…would love to fit this into the math class first day, but periods are only 53 minutes long!

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