First day of school

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Linguist92021, Jun 28, 2013.

  1. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jun 28, 2013

    I know there may have been some threads on this topic, but I couldn't find any.
    I'm hoping that we can exchange ideas and brainstorm, as not every classroom / school is the same, and not one thing will work for everyone.

    So: what should we do on the first day of school?

    So far, what I've heard and read: present expectations, rules, procedures, some icebreakers.
    I have always been in favor of spending the majority of that class time in communicating expectations, rules, consequences, rewards, basically everything students need to know. I always thought that if I skip this, or make shortcuts, I'd be sorry later.
    Since then I've read here that some teachers prefer to go over all this, but not in great details, while others spend about 2-3 minutes and go straight to the first lesson. Others do a lot of ice breakers.

    Here's my situation:
    -classes are 48 minutes
    - I'll have 6 classes, but 2 of those are the same kids from the other 4 classes.
    - a lot / or some students will be the same from last year. We don't know yet, but repeating students could be as little as 30 % of the population, or as much as 60 % (they're not repeating grades, they just stay with us, as the classes are mixed grades, 9-12)
    - most of my procedures, rules, expectations, rewards, etc. will be the same from last year
    - we don't need icebreakers for the students to get to know each other, because they already know each other (from previous school year, other schools, been locked up together, or from the same neighborhood), or we we don't want them to socialize because they're rival gang members, or there are other conflicts.

    As far as icebreakers, I want to get to know them myself, so I think it's enough if I have them write me a letter, answering specific questions. I did this last year, and it worked out great.

    But I'm not sure about the expectations. I normally do a Powerpoint, explain and have them take notes. The repeating students would find it boring. If I don't do it at all, a lot of them will not know what to do, and I really don't to stop all the time to explain.
    I've heard that it would be best to go right into the first lesson, because all other teachers will be go over expectations, so might as well make it different. I think that sounds good, but I think students are not really into school on the first day (at least not our students)

    So what can I / should I do?
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jun 28, 2013

    I do an assignment the first day. I present the procedures as we use them. The first day they get procedures for entering & exiting the room, teacher-directed instruction, and independent work.

    I never do an icebreaker. Most of them have been together since preschool, so by 7th grade they don't need icebreakers.
     
  4. muinteoir

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    Jun 28, 2013

    I do pretty much the same.
    I teach science so we do a lab the first day. We do procedures for coming in, getting supplies, cleaning up, and leaving.
     
  5. Global Teacher

    Global Teacher Companion

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    I like to review procedures and do mainly icebreakers on the first day in most cases. As much as anything, it serves as a transition from vacation, in that there is nothing really expected from the student. In a way, it weans them off of vacation and into the class environment.

    When I teach advanced classes, I try to get to the material much quicker.
     
  6. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    Jun 30, 2013

    I plan to begin my biology class with an activity so that expectations about collaboration in small groups.

    Physics will have a pre test for math skills.
     
  7. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I don´t do anything academic on the first day. The first few weeks I devote to community building, expectations, and practicing routines. The first couple of months are very important as we learn and practice for my modified version of The Daily 5. I do dive right into character traits, starting with what is a good neighbor and how can you be a good neighbor. We then continue to have high expectations to be kind neighbors for the remainder of the year.
     
  8. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Jun 30, 2013

    I go over the policies and procedures (blah, blah, blah: it's a ritual, you know?). Then I start the course. Then I give 'em a little homework. Simple.

    I don't do icebreakers, because I hate them myself. You know: like close-your-eyes-and-fall-back-and-your-comrades-will-catch-you? What dreck: hate it. That puppies-in-a-box stuff is for puppies. (Yes, I am very much pro-puppy.) Some kids, and I, like a little personal space, interpersonal distance. In my case, an acre and a quarter mile is just about right.

    Maybe I need to read more Marx, or watch some Oprah video (same thing, really).
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    The other reason I like my first day spent with communicating all the expectations, etc., is that the students take notes on them. This is good for several reasons: it's their first day and I want them to do things they'd normally do in school (writing), and it will also keep them busy. On the first day of school I think they'd want to socialize a lot more and not really care about anything else. So far I never really had a first day of school, because it was always the first day for me, but not for them. Once I took over a class in October, and now in April.
    The other reason I like this is that it will somehow show that they won't be slacking off in my class, they will always be doing work.

    So I think I will keep things the same. I don't want to make short cuts, because then later, I think I will be regretting it.
    I'll change my Power point though.
    I've seen one teacher once doing this with cartoon characters, I think it's from Edmodo, but not sure. So instead of him doing all the talking, he had designed a character explaining everything. It was different, and interesting.
     
  10. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    Jun 30, 2013

    I often do a "pre-test" on the first day. I display a set of images related to people or events we will study, and then students have to answer questions about each one. I try to pick items that will stimulate student interest. I also spend some time going over my expectations.
     
  11. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    I do procedures and that stuff and usually a fun, relaxing activity. Last year, I pulled the modeling clay from our science lab and gave each kiddo a stick. They had to create something that described themselves. They couldn't borrow colors (because I needed it for another activity) and they couldn't tell others what it was. Then they had to stand up at desk, show item, tell why it described them or what it meant. I took pictures and posted them on website. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about one another. I took notes so I'd have ideas about each kiddo. I liked it a lot better than having them bring the bag in with items from home. :)
     
  12. Go 4th

    Go 4th Habitué

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    Jun 30, 2013

    Try Voki for animated avitars and voice overs. :)
     
  13. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jul 3, 2013

    I'm not a science teacher though.
     
  14. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    Jul 3, 2013

    I'm teaching 9th grade world history and 11th grade US History. I haven't decided what I want to do with the 11th graders but I know that I want to start the 9th graders with an assignment on "why we study history". I have a couple assignments planned to go along with it, including a short essay so I can see their writing skills.
     
  15. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Jul 3, 2013

    I always start with a warm-up on the board - that way, they're working from the very first second they walk in the room.

    I go over the supply list.

    I teach a few procedures.

    I do a small ice-breaker, because the kids don't know me at all and I always have a few who are new to the school. It's a scavenger hunt... I call out a command (find someone with the same color eyes as you, etc) and then move into classroom-oriented ideas (where would you find your makeup work if you're absent?, etc).

    Then I do a small assessment - usually grammar or figurative language related, assign homework, and send them off to the next class.
     
  16. HistTchr

    HistTchr Habitué

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    One assignment I often do on the second day of school that I learned about at a workshop is "Ordeal by Cheque". You can easily find it on Google. It is a set of checks written during a fictitious person's lifetime. Students need to work together to analyze the checks and come up with a story about the person. Students share their interpretations, and we discuss how being a historian is like being a detective. They usually write a "why study history" response as a homework assignment.
     
  17. Ms.SLS

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    Jul 3, 2013

    I'll go over the syllabus basics, then we do a writing activity which I also use as a sort of diagnostic.
     
  18. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I like "Ordeal by cheque"... couldn't really do it with my kids... well, I might be able to tie it in to my grade 5 English kids next year... Great idea HistTchr!
     
  19. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I do spend a good amount of time on my expectations and procedures ( I do have 90 min blocks, though, so plenty of time) because my biggest pet peeve is having to remind someone to do something they've done every day for 6 months. I go through procedures every day for about 3 weeks and then usually have no issues for the rest of the year.

    For my Freshman classes, I also pass out letters that last year's freshmen wrote on the last day with advice on how to be successful in high school and in my class.

    Then I jump right in with some basic map skills (World History II) or a visuals analysis (US History). I've done ice breakers in the past, but I'm not a huge fan of it, especially if it's a late in the day class and they've done it in every class before mine.
     
  20. Nichole906

    Nichole906 Rookie

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    I don't mean to hijack the thread, but am wondering if you could elaborate on this? I teach high school and feel silly having students practice procedures like younger grades do, and also feel like they would roll their eyes if I asked them to take notes on procedures. Let year I just talked through them, but had a horrible year, so am looking to start off this year really well.
     
  21. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I don't have them actually practice the procedures or take notes on them. I hand out my syllabus on the first day and discuss my expectations in detail. I have some strict policies (for example, homework every single night and a quiz every single day) so I make sure to explain the rationale.

    As far as procedures, I try to make my class as self-reliant as possible, so I talk about everything they need to do when they enter the room (turn in homework in proper place, pick up graphic organizer and classwork for today, take out last class's notes and begin reviewing for quiz), where to go if they missed a day, where to look if they want to know what we'll be discussing. On a perfect day, NOBODY asks me anything when they first come in. I want to be out in the hall, shaking my students' hands and asking bout their lives, not answering the 15th "what are we doing today?" or dealing with "What did I miss?", ya know?

    Anyway, for the first few weeks, I spend about 3 min at the beg of class and 3 min at the end, reminding them of what they are supposed to do at specific points during the class period. I also give a quiz on the 2nd day of school on expectations and procedures. I also require a parent signature on the syllabus and within the first week of school, I call home for every single student and make sure to mention the major points to whatever adult or answering machine I encounter. I don't know if it's the repetition or just me being annoying, but by mid-October, I've eliminated most of the "i dunno what to do"s. There's always one student who never quite grasps the concept, but what can ya do? :p
     
  22. Ms.History

    Ms.History Rookie

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    Jul 17, 2013

    HistoryVA, this is such a great idea! And it would be so helpful for MS students as well -- thanks for sharing!

    Can I ask, what is your rationale for HW every night and quiz 1st thing each day? And also, how do you administer and grade the quizzes? Are they open note? I actually really like the idea of giving the kids an opportunity EVERY day to boost their grade.
     
  23. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    I like homework. I've read all the discussions about whether it works or not, but in my personal experience, it does. My homework is very easy. Read a page in the textbook and answer 5-6 questions. I make it very enticing for students to complete. If they turn in their hw on time, they get an automatic 100% (provided they didn't write "elephant" for every answer) and they get 10 points extra credit on that day's quiz.

    My quizzes are always 5 questions, multiple-choice, closed book (usually. If I find a large number of students aren't bringing their notes/notebook to class, I'll randomly make a really hard"if, open notes quiz). The quizzes are very easy if you did your homework and read over your notes beforehand (I always provide a few min).

    I use these as a constant formative assessment. It really shows me weak areas in individuals and classes and what I need to reteach. I always tell the students, "if 70% of you get the same question wrong, that's not YOUR fault, it's MINE." And I've found that students who do the HW and do well on the quizzes, always do better on tests.
     
  24. Thia

    Thia Rookie

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    Jul 18, 2013

    Good topic Linguist....I will be starting in a new school this year (English/LA/Reading) and it is my first experience in a public school. I'm a bit nervous because there are high expectations and clear benchmarks. I was thinking of going over some of the class rules, but not in detail. I was also thinking of starting a writing lesson to get them working and to use as an assessment since I haven't worked with these students.
     
  25. Milsey

    Milsey Habitué

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    Jul 18, 2013

    Last year, I got done my powerpoint and icebreaker early, so I basically let them talk for the last 15 minutes of class, and some of them left trash on the floor. This sent a really bad message, that my class was no different from the lunchroom. I need to plan better this time.
     
  26. 2ndTimeAround

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    In the past I've gone over the rules and expectations for a lonnnnggg time, reviewed grading policies and then did a scavenger hunt. The hunt gets them familiar with their resources and gives me some first impressions about their abilities. I tell them that it will sound like Charlie Brown's teacher about five minutes into the rules and expectations.

    I don't like it, but it works.

    This year I am thinking about creating a powerpoint for them to take notes on the rules and expectations. I will still give them a parent letter to take home and get signed, but I want them to be a bit more engaged during the lesson. I also want them to see how my powerpoints are set up and we can go over the procedures I have for note-taking.
     
  27. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jul 22, 2013

    I'm trying not to think about school right now since I'm on vacation in Europe, but that means I keep having dreams about it. The last one was kind of like a nightmare :) It was the first day of school, nothing was prepared, my classroom was exactly the way it is now. I had on sweatpants and a T shirt, it was like as if I went there today and all of sudden it was 8 am on the first day :)

    I think I will stick with what I feel more comfortable with:
    -go over rules and procedures with a Powerpoint, students take notes
    - they'll give me a writing sample, I find the best thing for this is to have them write me a letter about themselves. I will give them specifics to include, just in case they're drawing a blank. Since I will have a lot of returning students, they can also write about their summer, etc.
    - I'll have to make a seating chart as well, which is basically documenting wherever they're sitting, by writing pasting their pictures on the chart (by that time I'll have it all cut out). Of course I will let them know that I reserve the right to move whoever, whenever to wherever for whatever reason I see fit :)
    - I will also distribute their folders, they'll write their names on it
    - hand out parent letters
    That's it for 48 minutes.

    I think it will be better like this, I really want to spend time on my expectations, and I think most of the kids will not be in school mode yet, whatever I would try to accomplish wouldn't really work. We had such a hard time n Mondays before, because most students had absolutely no structure over the weekends, which meant they were partying, drinking and doing drugs, staying up until 4 am, and then Monday morning they were hung over, mad, tired and coming off of drugs. I can only imagine how it will be after 2 months of no parental supervision.
     
  28. Le Prof

    Le Prof Rookie

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    I'm teaching three levels of French, so most of my French II and III students have already had me as a teacher. Therefore, I won't be doing much with them besides going over the syllabus for the year. In past years, I've given them a packet of review exercises to work on, but I might just dive right into some basic material on the first day this year, for the sake of not feeling like I'm already giving my kids busy work on the first day of a new year.

    With my three sections of French I, I think I'll just go over the policies/procedures (briefly, as I've found most of them hear the same stuff from each of their seven teachers on the first day) and the syllabus. I'm giving them a homework assignment to go online and complete a new student survey. Basically, they tell me a little about their interests, why they're taking the course, and what background knowledge they have over foreign languages/cultures. This also provides the opportunity for me to get the parents' contact details, and I can access all the information in one electronic file thanks to the convenient way TeacherWeb is set up. :)

    I've found going over the syllabus on the first day sends a message to the students about the difficulty of my course and what is expected of them, so those who aren't up for a challenge and don't want to take my class seriously, do the work, and put forth the effort to learn, will switch electives after the first day.

    What I don't like to do is send home a letter about the rules and requirements for the parents to read, sign, and return, as I know most of my co-workers do a similar thing and I doubt parents have the desire or time to read about each of their children's teachers' policies and procedures and sign a paper for each one, especially with all the other paperwork they get sent home on the first day. I don't find it necessary to have the parents read up on the basic classroom policies, especially when they're so generic (no talking while I'm talking, no cheating or plagiarism, etc.)
     
  29. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Aug 10, 2013

    Here's my latest update due to more thinking and conversations with my P. Except for 5-10 new kids, we'll have the same students from last year (a lot of them left, but we only have 10 new ones)

    - make a seating chart, basically documenting wherever they're sitting, by writing + pasting their pictures on the chart (by that time I'll have it all cut out). Of course I will let them know that I reserve the right to move whoever, whenever to wherever for whatever reason I see fit :)
    -go over expectations and procedures with a Powerpoint, students take notes - I'm making this much shorter than before
    - I'm going to do one activity, we'll come up with the classroom rules together. I don't lie the way I have mine worded, and this way we can cover some topics, such as how they should code-switch (way too much profanity by the students), we can actually come up with words. I'm also really interested how they view discipline, etc, for example in what situations they think I should give detention, etc. Of course I have my ideas that I want for the rules, so I'll guide them, but make it seem like it was their idea.
    - they'll give me a writing sample, I find the best thing for this is to have them write me a letter about themselves. I will give them specifics to include, just in case they're drawing a blank. Since I will have a lot of returning students, they can also write about their summer, etc.
    - I will distribute their folders, they'll write their names on it
    - hand out parent letters decided no on the parent letter. The secretary said none of the other teachers do it, and I already know there isn't a big chance all those letters will make it home. And even less chance to get them returned, so it's a no.
    That's it for 48 minutes.

    In my 2 electives class we'll probably go over procedures quickly, and describe how the classes will be run and get to the first lesson. In these classes I have students from other classes, and these are period 4 and 6, so by that time I will have seen most if not all of them.
     

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