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I debated about starting a blog for this post, but opted to put this on a wiki for now. Maybe soon! I have a few things I'll share about my first day.
Like most of you, I give a student survey the first day. Here is the one I'll be using in Trigonometry this year.
Welcome Trig 2011.docx
I just put it on Google docs, so here is a link to that:
I participated in a forum discussion on first day surveys this summer. Having the students share what they believe to be the qualities of a good student and a good teacher seemed to be a common thing to do. A great suggestion that I heard was to then analyze these qualities as a class - list them on the board, rank them, graph them, calculate percentages - and then hang them up in class to refer to throughout the semester.
The most important question on here, I believe, is the open-ended one that asks if there is anything special I need to know about how they learn. I'd say only about one-third of the class writes something here, but it is usually something significant, such as having ADD, needing to be up front, or being nervous about the class.
The only other thing I'll say about the survey is that we have to be sure we actually use the information we get from it! I don't think I've always done that very well. Now, I read everything they write as soon as possible. I make myself little notes (post-its on my laptop) to remind myself what to ask students about. I make lists of the results and leave them out so I can refer to them throughout the year when I'm planning or assigning groups.
I always learn names on the first day. Thankfully, I have a 90 minute class, and I can often see their pictures before the first day. I call out all of their names when they first arrive, making sure I have nicknames down. Every 10 minutes or so, I tell the class I'm going to try and say everyone's name. I keep doing this throughout the class until I can do it without missing any! The kids love seeing me mess up - and appreciate that I am trying so hard.
Algebra II activity
In Algebra II, I use this slide, with everyone picking a different number to start.
Pick a number.pptx
They're all amazed that they all end with 3! Of course, they all want to try it again with a different number so we do that. We then hold a discussion about starting with a variable instead, which shows us that it would work with any number. While we're working this out with a variable, we can review some basics, such as combining like terms. In pairs, they work on another one of these and then create their own puzzle. Here's the worksheet that goes with it.
I'm always surprised how well this goes! I'm able to walk around the whole time, and I can easily tell who is struggling right from the beginning.
I do teach content on the first day, but we keep it light, and definitely end with some small group work and problem solving. I'll be incorporating large dry erase boards at each group this year from day one for group problem solving. It's important to me that they leave with a little bit of knowledge. Over the years, I have learned that I can get to know the kids well, and they can get to know each other, while doing some problem solving rather than an ice breaker.
Feel free to email if you have any questions at all, or tweet me!
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