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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What should the first day of school look like?

OR....What should the first day of school NOT look like.

I promise I will not:  read through the syllabus
I promise I will not: lecture on day 1, not even rules!
I promise not to waste any time assigning seats.
I promise I will not:  give a written assessment of any kind, not even an evaluatory/prescriptive one

I promise to:  DO MATH
I promise to:  make the kids think
I promise to :  DO MATH
I promise to:  challenge the students in an engaging fashion with something they can find an entry into which may or may not tie into something they might see again in class.

I have a hint at what I'm teaching, my letter of guarantee of employment for next school year only said that I would be a math teacher at (XXX) High School.  (my certifications potentially allow me to teach math or ELA at middle or high school).  I did speak to an administrator who did say that as things were (at the time of the discussion) that it was likely I was teaching Algebra 2 and Statistics.

In my school, Algebra 2 can be a class Freshmen are placed into, and I know I had a couple classes last year (I also taught Alg2 then as well) that were primarily Freshmen.  I, actually won't know who is in my classes until the weekend before the first day of classes.

I want to start off with an activity like 4-squares, as mentioned on Mary Dooms blog (July 1st, 2013).  I will have my desks set up in pairs (33 kids per class, 15 pairs and 1 triple).   I want the students trying and sharing with their partners and then discussing with the class.  Then I want a meatier challenge.  I'm currently leaning towards Matt Vaudrey's Mullet Lesson (The only lesson they'll remember).  My goal isn't evaluation, its setting a tone of exploration and risk taking with the math (in a fun way).  I've got to speak to a couple of my colleagues about having prepared measurement cards and being willing to have their class interrupted to give them out.

I have 73 minutes, so I'm thinking I can at least get through enough of the mullet lesson to make it interesting.   I'll let the lesson spill into the next day just a little, even if only to get them writing about the thinking process.  (besides, one of the two days we'll be getting books - sad when I barely use them except for homework).

What goals do other teachers have in their lessons for the first day of school?  I remember only 1 such lesson from my high school years (too long ago...).  This particular teacher came in, had us write on the first page of our notebooks 3 pieces of information:  a date, a phone number and Peanut M&M's.  (his birthday, his phone number and his favorite candy.     He got bags and bags of them on that date. Maybe he was onto something...


  1. That is brilliant! (the M&Ms part). I also like your plan for day 1. I like to start my grade 10s with a marble rolling activity where they have to determine a relationship between the height of a ramp and the distance a marble will travel. It's great for observing and learning about the kids. And we end with a little competition with prizes, of course!

    It's the 2nd week of my summer vacation and I'm really not ready to think about back-to-school, but thanks for sharing! :)

    1. I always start my summer with a week of downtime and then I jump in right away on planning. I would rathr get stuff done now then wait until I'm back in the thick of things. Besides I know I'll burn out a little by the 2nd week of Aug and want to rest again before school starts.

      I've been playing with the first trimester stuff, so the 1st day of school was right in line with where my head is. (Though your perspective makes perfect sense too)

      Thank you for your comment!!

  2. I tried the mullet lesson last year! It went soooooooo well. Even in my urban school. I thought the kids would think I was an idiot. I got some of the other teachers from the school send in pictures of them when they were kids sporting mullets.

    Super fun times.

    I also might steal the birthday, phone number, skittles (Allergic to peanuts.) idea!

  3. I love your promise to: DO MATH. I am making the same promise. Save the surveys, paper work for another day. Now to find the perfect activity :)

    1. I'm glad you will also be DO-ing MATH day 1 as well.

      I was planning on the mullet lesson day 1, but I've just found out the first day is a half day, so I will only have 30 minutes. I'm sticking with the 4-squares activity, but I will also pick out something else to stick in their brains before sending them off to another class.