I do not remember all of my first days of school, but from pre-school upwards, anticipating the first day of school has always brought feelings of excitement, nervousness, and regret for the end of my summer. For the past 8 years, I have also spent (too much) time planning what I can do on that first day of school to start the year off on just the right note. As I see it, activities on the first day of school could be split into 4 categories: getting to know each other, setting academic expectations, setting behavioral expectations, and getting into the math. When my first day lessons needed to fit into only about 40 minutes, I mostly focused on getting to know each other and setting behavioral expectations, but now that I’ve got up to 90 minutes, I’ve worked on how I can incorporate more math on that first day.
At this point, I’m not sure how all of these pieces will come together yet, but here are some activities that I may include on the first day of school this year.
- “About Me” Equations – This activity gives students a little bit of algebra review while also letting them get to know me a little bit. Its also helpful as a glimpse into students’ mathematical background on the first day. (I have done this for several years now and don’t remember where I got this idea.)
- Name Tents from Sara VanDerWerf – I’ll have them write their name on one side and then an “about me” equation on the other.
- Classroom Expectations – My classroom expectations are that they will be responsible, be respectful and be prepared. In the past, I have done a variety of combinations of individual, partner, small group, and class brainstorming to answer the question “What does it look like to be responsible/respectful/prepared?” I make a compiled list from all of my classes that I post in my classroom. I’m still considering what that brainstorming time will look like for this year (and will also most likely depend on my class sizes).
- Our Geometry team has made the decision to start the year off with and use constructions more consistently throughout the year as a teaching tool. I’m thinking on the first day of school that I want them just to get comfortable with the physical act of using a compass. After they have played for a little bit with the compass, I’m going to give them the choice of creating a design of their own choosing or writing their name with only a compass (I haven’t gotten to try this idea out yet, so I’m not sure if that will really work).
- I’ve also used these visualization exercises in the past and they do definitely get students thinking geometrically, but for some, the frustration level was a little bit too high. I may use these on the first day of my Geometry Lab (a support class for students who are enrolled in one of my regular Geometry sections), which is smaller and enables me to give more individual/small group attention.
- My curiosity was piqued on the Geometry MTBoS forum about first day plans by David Griswold’s description of an activity that leads to writing a definition of a sandwich. I’m still thinking about how I may want to incorporate this.
Obviously this list is a bit too extensive at this point, but I would much rather need to pare it down either as I continue to plan or in the moment rather than be under planned for the first day.