First Day Plans: Mine *DO* Include Smiling

When Nancy tweeted her “first-day first-year big tweet“, I felt a tug at my heart for 2 reasons:

REASON 1: I remember being there!  During the summer of ’99, after graduating from college, getting married, moving to a new city, and landing my first full-time teaching gig, I had read Harry Wong’s “The First Days of School” cover-to-cover, with hopes and plans to replicate all that I had learned.


REASON 2: I remembered that the only resource I had to lean on during that time was... a book! Sometimes a profoundly simple “big tweet” can serve as a reminder of how far we, a tweeting and blogging global math-ed PLN, have grown.

In my early years, not smiling until Christmas was the vibe.  Establishing *my* authority was the priority.  Showing kids who owned the knowledge in the room (me, the teacher of course #TongueInCheek) was important.  I even remember wearing dress clothes I didn’t like and carrying a leather briefcase I didn’t need just to help me look not so new to teaching!

No lie – my first day teaching, I walked into the classroom as the late bell rang, and a kid blurted out, “How old *ARE* you?!?!

Stupid dress clothes.  Stupid briefcase.

Ah, the passing years have cured that incident from ever happening again.

Bringing it forward to 2017, I like the shift of making student-to-teacher and student-to-student relationships a priority on day 1.  It works for me, especially because I can’t make it through the first 14 seconds of class on the first day of school without smiling.  I’m happy to see a new group of learners, and I can’t wait to get the year started!

In light of the abundant online sharing through blogs and tweets, the toughest part every year is deciding on which tasks and activities to do during those first few days, since there are so many great ideas out there!  So… instead of putting all sorts of pressure on Day 1, I have a continuum of the first few days’ happenings, and whatever doesn’t get finished on the first day can certainly extend into the next few days… or next semester, right?  We do get to spend the next 9-10 months with these kiddos, so spread out some of the awesomeness for later in the year!

And, with the National Eclipse happening on our first day of school with students this year… it’s time to be flexible right outta the gate!

To keep myself organized, I’ve created a Tackk of activities to reference the first few days of school, and I edit it each year as I try new things.  Tackk is a great freebie – each Tackk is a “digital flyer” with its own unique URL, so it’s a sort of mini website folks can design with a specific purpose in mind.  I like Tackk because I can house print resources and digital media easily in one place.

Read along for a play-by-play of the first few things I have in mind this year, and check out the Tackk where I keep it all.  (I display this Tackk on my SmartBoard.)

Greet students at the door.  Invite them to sit anywhere and hand them each a two-sided handout (WHO I AM on one side, an -ING Word prompt on the other side… read on and check out the Tackk).  It’s a great time to see who they choose to sit with, and if anyone has just revealed who they actually shouldn’t sit with once assigned seats come later.  Give ’em the chance to tell on themselves…

Must take attendance at the start of class to make attendance software happy.  Students say a word ending in -ing to describe their summers instead of saying “here”, tell a few short summer stories (I also join in here) and begin “WHO I AM”.  I collect these sheets on Day 2 so they have more time to dedicate to them later.

Yes, on Day 1 I do communicate briefly about expectations and procedures, but I show a short animation video instead of droning on and on.  Everyone watches, trying to figure out how Mrs. Yenca has created this cartoon.  They tap their feet to the music, and try to anticipate what the mysterious hand is going to write next.

“Did you make this, Mrs. Yenca?”

“Is that YOUR hand?”

“How did you make this?”

I tell them I used VideoScribe and that I like to create lots of resources.  As a matter of fact, most of the time I look at the math concepts we’re going to learn this year, peek in the textbook, and try to find and create resources that help us learn what’s in “the book” in different ways.

I ask students to recall, in their groups, as many of the expectations they can remember from the cartoon.  The room bursts into conversation and I can already tell it’s going to be a great year of working in groups and talking about math.

Up next – “Talking Points” – I want to begin conversations about math self-beliefs and begin to establish our classroom culture. After three rounds (outlined in the Tackk, along with a handout I created) I show the YouCubed vid “Brains Grow and Change”. We talk about the brain video and the comments at the bottom of students’ tally sheets.

I think it’s right about now that the bell will be ringing, so I’ll take a quick opportunity to remind students that we use Google Calendar to post daily assignments.  Ideally I will have a reminder posted there that students should bring their completed “WHO I AM” sheets back on Day 2.  Yes, after all the hype about “the first day of school” there actually IS a second day, and a third day, and…

back to the lesson plan continuum… this year I’ve created several videos using Apple’s CLIPS app to reinforce the ideas that we VALUE MISTAKES, we VALUE STRUGGLE, and we need to practice HOW to have conversations with one another effectively when those valuable mistakes happen.  (You can find these brief videos in the Tackk too)

I envision Day 2 beginning with my “Mistakes are Valuable” CLIPS video (to reinforce the YouCubed video we might have ended class with the day before).  In groups (assigned seats today) students will complete the 100 Numbers task.  You need to read Sara Vanderwerf’s blog post and watch Thom Gibson’s video about this task.  

Yes, “NEED” is a strong word, but I am telling you, even though I haven’t used this task yet, I think it’s going to be fantastic in establishing a cooperative-working-math-class culture!  

Per Sara, students will need to work on a math task after the 100 Numbers Task.  I’ve chosen “Up 4 a Challenge?” for Math 8 (otherwise known as The Four Fours, but I don’t want to call it that because I don’t want them trying to Google it too quickly) and “Seal the Deal: Balance the Ark” for Algebra 1 (I changed this title too, so it’s not so easy to Google either… you… see what I did there with the “seal” pun, right?  I slay me.)  I’m going to try to do everything Sara says to do on her blog.  She’s so thorough that I’m almost forgetting I’ve never tried the 100 Numbers task intro to our first math task before.  It’s like, when I read her blog, I feel like I was there, already trying this myself!

Since we have iPads, I may have students use Nearpod to take photos of their work and submit them so we can anonymously showcase them up front and talk about them.  Some classes surprise me and don’t mind having their names attached to their work from the start, while other classes prefer to remain anonymous all year.  We’ll see!

Another resource I’ll have ready is this 1-2-3 activity that gets everyone up, moving, and celebrating failures!

That’s how I plan to begin the year!  How about you?

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