August 19, 2017

What I Teach The First Week Of School

Hello teacher friends! School is starting back for most of us, our students come back the 28th, and we are all getting ready to welcome students back to our classrooms. Many of us struggle with how to teach that first week.

Some schools have a modified first day, or even first week (in Middle or High School) to get students accustomed to their new schedules. This can be both good and bad. Good: you don't really have to plan whole lessons and you can ease back into the school year. Bad: you lose a week of teaching time and can't get into a routine yet.

I changed the way I did things a few years back, after being a BTSA Support Provider. I used to hit the syllabus, hit the rules, and get to it. I thought I needed to be strict and regimented because I was young(er) and taught high school. I found that yes, the students followed directions and we got stuff done, but they all thought I was strict and "graded too hard." Not that I should really care what high-schoolers think of me, but it did bother me that they couldn't see that I was helping them and setting them up for success.

So I decided to switch it up. Here's the new routine:

Day One: "Getting to know you" activities


This helps the students see that I can have fun and that this will be a welcoming classroom.  With 80 minutes, I had time for 4 or 5 ice-breakers, which really helped students get to know one another and me.

Day Two: Refresher ice-breaker and syllabus
We do a few, one or two, or even a new one like the acrostic poem with the name, to help students remember each other's names, get comfortable with each other again. Then I pass out the syllabus and we go through it. Take it home, have the parents sign it, and that's their first homework assignment.

Day Three: Baseline test or writing sample
On this third day, we go around and do the name game to help everyone remember names, mostly me, and this acts as our warm up. At this point, we usually have a baseline test or I have them do an in-class writing sample to see where they're at. Make the prompt interesting; not, what I did over summer.  You can then use this sample, no need to grade, just give credit for doing, to help you spend the weekend adjusting your lesson plans.

Day Four: Start the Argument Writing Unit/Smashbook Unit


This day I go over the Smashbook unit and have them start cutting and gluing (yay kindergarten!) the labels into their interactive notebook. They have to pick their novel to read, at home, and I show them samples, etc.

The Argument Writing Unit and the SmashBook go together. The SmashBook is their homework, and the Writing Unit is the classwork. It's only 3 weeks long, and prepares them to write more effective essays. I saw TREMENDOUS improvement from years past on the quality of writing when I started using this unit.


We don't have a Day Five the first week, but the next week is jumping right into the Argument Writing Unit and check-ins for the SmashBook unit.

So that's my first week in a nutshell. Hopefully you can get some fun ideas and have a great first week. And as always, I'm curious what you all do!!! Let me know in the comments below!
 

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