Saturday, September 19, 2015

First Week of School: Science Saturday

Its the first week of school and for many that means Rules, Procedures, and laying down the law.  Most teachers will start the first day going over their syllabus, rules, and being as strict as possible.  I have even heard some teachers give advice to new teachers about never smile until October.  While that might work for some teachers it doesn't work for me.  I believe one of the hardest things for new teachers is to find their own unique style.  Whenever I have a new student teacher the first thing I tell them is that my teaching style works for me but might not work for them.  This is why it is so important to see other teachers so you can find a style that works for you.  So what works for me?

           I use the first week of school to set the tone of my class.  On the first day I Do Not go over rules of the class. Instead I have the students do some teamwork activities.  For example, my 8th grades had to construct a tower of cups using only the rubber octopus and they could not talk or make any sounds doing this. They had to learn to work together and communicate  in other ways in order to accomplish this.  At the end they had to come up with some rules for teamwork.  They all had a great time and could all explain the importance of working as a team.

On the second day I teach one of my favorite lessons of the year.  My famous failures lesson.  I let my students know that when they learn new things they will make mistakes and I expect them to make mistakes.  We talk about famous people and the failures they had.  We also talk about the fact that they learned from their failures, they didn't give up, and they eventually succeeded.  At the end I have them think about something they love to do.  We talk about what they did when they faced their first obstacle and "failed" and what they did when it happened.  I stress that it is important to apply the same strategies to their classes.

The third day is my "office day".  Sometimes you just have to have those organizational days.  I use this day to have my students set up their interactive notebooks.  I like to have the first pages of my interactive notebook to be meaningful and useful.  I include the common thinking strategies they will use in class and the rubric for grading but I also like to include some pages that they can reference on days when they are struggling and having a hard time.  I have one page that is about failures and another page I printed out a blog post from C. Mielke that wrote an excellent post called "What students really need to hear".  I read it at the beginning and then ask the students about their opinions and thoughts on it.  The other pages will help them in class and include how to be a good digital citizen and common templates we will use.

On the last day, we only have four days our first week, I spend introducing my students to our digital classroom.  I use schoology for my LMS.  I have tried others like edmodo and google classroom but have found schoology to be the best for my purposes and the most student friendly.  I also set them up on our flipped classroom video site, edpuzzle.  I find the the combination of the two together makes for a very successful technology integrated classroom.

During the week I teach procedures as we do each task and then we practice, practice, practice.  They are taught by doing not by sitting and listening.  When mistakes are made they are immediately corrected without consequences.  I do not give detentions during the first week and do not mark students tardy during the first week.  Instead we talk about the actions and find solutions to them.  The first week is an opportunity for students to learn how things work, to make mistakes, and learn from them. I find that using this strategy cuts down on a lot of behavior issues and other problems later in the year.

The last thing I do is send out a message to the parents introducing myself, explaining what we did, and letting them know how great their student did.  Parents love hearing about the good things their students are doing especially those that usually only hear about the problems.

What are some things you do to set the tone during the first days of class

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