The first week back to school is both stressful and exciting and I’m not talking about the students. Getting to know individual students, remembering all those names, organizing activities for students to get acclimated to the classroom as well as getting used to all those ringing bells makes the first week back eventful.
There are a number of goals I have for the first week. Since my district had not been in person for the past 16 months, the first few days were especially important to establish soft routines.
All of my tenth grade students have not been in school since the third quarter of 8th grade. They are middle school students and this is the first time they have been at the high school. They lack maturity and react to high school rules just as you would expect–like an 8th grader.
Soft routines involve students learning how to talk with others, participate in a group, transition between different activities and learning how to use the different platforms we use in class. It seems to classroom visitors as though we are just having fun. But underneath the games there are structures forming that will last the entire school year.
The goal for the first day was for students to meet each other, find something in common with others and learn to work together as a team.
Someone Just Like Me
The first activity was the Someone Just Like Me activity from my Back to School Bundle. Students first answer the questions which took about 10-12 minutes and then had 20-25 minutes to meet others and find someone who matched an answer on their paper. Once a student finds a new friend that matches one of their answers, they sign each other’s paper for that answer.
Since students answer the questions (i.e. What is a food you hate?), there are so many possibilities for answers. This means that each student has to talk to everyone to find matches, and not all the questions will have a match.
Boom Card Trivia
We then played a Boom Card Trivia game in teams. Each team of 4 had 1 whiteboard to answer for the team. The questions were displayed, students were given time to talk with their team members to agree on an answer. Since this trivia is random, students did not have any idea about answers, but it gave everyone an opportunity to give an opinion. After each question, the whiteboard is passed and a new person in the group is responsible for answering.
The goal for the second day was to build on our team and get more information about students individually.
I used the Getting to Know You page from the Back to School Bundle to get some basic information about students. The form asks questions such as nickname you prefer, if any and students beliefs about learning.
Next students prepared their goals for the first semester. These goals are not displayed. Students write them, seal them up and I place the class in a plastic bin to be saved until the end of the semester.
We all have those students who finish early and it’s good to both know who they are and have something for them to do. In many activities during the year, students who finish early will check answers and peer tutor. This early, it is handy to have some extra activities. This wordsearch is one of them I like. Students enjoy them, and I even count them as an assignment.
I like giving wordsearches that are self-checking but do not require me to check that the words were found. The wordsearches I make have a hidden message. So if students do not find all the words (or even worse, randomly circle letters), they will not be able to find the secret message to relay to me.
Some math teachers like to do a quick skills review of basic concepts. Using riddles for these checks is more motivating for students than a plain worksheet. These riddles review solving one step equations, order of operations and substituting into expressions.
Review Skills with a Treasure Hunt
A treasure hunt works really well for those classes after lunch. The first two periods, students are still not energetic enough to enjoy walking around and finding the solution to math problems. After lunch, an activity that requires walking around is a must! This one has a variety of skills, most tailored to those needed in an Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra or Geometry class.
The goal for day 3 was to do a quick check of the online platforms that we will be using, making sure every student can log in, access assignments, and turn them in successfully.
Also included in the Back to School bundle is a digital syllabus, personality test, template for a name card. Some activities you may want to consider for those first few days is learning how to log into various platforms.
Most of us learned the value of online resources that we will continue to use. I had students all log into Google Classroom (my district adds the populated classrooms for each teacher) to make sure that 1. They could log in 2. They understood how to access an assignment 3. They knew how to attach something to an assignment and submit. In this case, the something was a picture of their choice.
Last year many students were having difficulty (or so they reported) attaching screenshots to assignments and submitting them. This year, no one will have that problem because we have practiced that skill up front.
We have also practiced logging into other platforms and submitting different types of assignments.
By Friday, we were ready for some fun, so we all did some origami. Creating some geometric figures with origami is a wonderful way to help students understand the importance of following directions and hear vocabulary that we will be using all year. We make a cube. See the video for the folding of the one unit we did. 6 of these units will form a cube.
If you have not started back to school yet, I hope this included some ideas for you. These ideas also work right before/after a vacation or at the end of the semester. If you have any suggestions or ideas for back to school, please comment or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.