"Whatever," I thought. "How can anything about two months off be depressing?"
But you know what? He was right. The night before the first day of pre-planning for my second year teaching, I was miserable. I hadn't read that stack of books on my night stand. I hadn't planted my herb garden or organized the garage. How had I let the time get away from me?
My husband is not one to let me wallow, and believe me, I was wallowing. So he turned the whole day into a celebration. At my colleague's advice, we began celebrating "Pre-Planning Eve." We have a cookout, give gifts, etc. Now it's a day to look forward to.
|Here's Your Free Gift From Me|
It's time for a brand new adventure yet again, and I've found that what I do on the first day sets the tone for the entire year. I will officially be embarking on my 13th "Teacher New Year" in one week, and I've messed up enough to figure out what makes for a great start! At least, I hope that's what I've gotten out of it :). Here's some advice I've picked up over the years to make that first day meaningful:
- Lay out all classroom guidelines clearly and briefly.
- Get to know each student as an individual.
- Encourage all students to get to know each other.
I want to elaborate briefly on points 2 and 3. It is always my goal to learn each student's name by the end of each block on the first day. I have students fill out information cards, I shuffle the cards, and draw one at a time. For each card I draw, I make eye contact with that student, think of a memory trick to remember their name, and have a short conversation with them about an interest they put on the card. Periodically, I go around the room and call each student by name.
The first time I tried this, I thought the students would get bored, but they're actually entertained, and they love it when I mess up and miss a name! And they are so impressed when I see them on campus and greet them by name. It really makes them feel like they matter to me. Here is a great article about how to make this work: Easy Ways to Remember Names
A couple of years into teaching, I realized halfway through the year, that the students in my classes barely knew each other. That is not good if you're trying to build a collaborative culture. I knew that I needed to foster relationships within the classroom starting on the first day. But how do you lay out guidelines, have a conversation with each student, and begin to build a collaborative culture all in one period?
After much thought, I came up with a game that only takes 5 minutes to play, and in that time, students are able to speak to every person in the class. It's based on the Kagan Structure "Quiz-Quiz-Trade." I call it "Greet and Swap."
- I place questions on cards.
- Each student gets a card.
- They move about the room.
- I play music.
- When the music stops, they turn to the student next to them, ask their question and get the answer.
- Their partner does the same.
- They swap cards, and continue moving about the room.
- We repeat this for 5 minutes (or longer).
I have all of my first day resources in a packet you can get here: First Day of School Materials and Procedures
|Find It Here|
How do you ring in the "Teacher" New Year? What do you do to "set the tone" for the school year? Leave a comment below to let me know!