The First Day of School

I know what you’re probably thinking. “I’m still on summer vacation!”, and you’re right, but if you’re anything like me, the first day of school can give you nightmares.

Now, if you don’t already know, I’ve taught a wide variety of students at different grade levels and ages. I’ve taught most grades between 6-12 at one point or another throught my 6 years of teaching.

I know that I’m definitely not a veteran teacher by any means, but I’ve learned a few things during my time in the classroom.

My piece of advice about the first day of school: DON’T READ THE SYLLABUS!

I did this my first few years of teaching and reflecting back I feel so sorry for my students. At the time I was just doing what I thought was normal, and you know what? I was right. The students would come in, (There would always be a little bit of chaos as they tried to find their assigned seat) from there I would hand out my syllabus, and I would read it to them AND if I was feeling super innovative I would ask students to read it to the class.

This would ways leave me with so much time left at the end of class that I wouldn’t know what to do with my students. (During ny first few years of teaching I struggled to figure out my pacing, but it’s all good now.)

This was my norm for the first two years and I was just dying (not literally), but it definitely set the tone for my students. They would always expect class to be mundane, and every day the same, and I felt like a lot of them would set their mind on autopilot.

After searching high and low one year for an idea, and idea, of what to do on the first day of school it finally came to me — group work!

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I hate icebreaker activities where you have to go around and say something that you like that has the same letter as your name, or come up with two truths and a lie, or anything else you could think of. I figured that I was scared and felt like I was in survival mode so maybe my students felt the same way.

I came up with a survival game for the first day, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since it was born via PowerPoint.

I break my students up into groups, I hand each student a list of supplies (all students have the same list) and they, in their group, have to decide what is the most important to surviving in the Sonoran Desert.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the first time I did this, I mean, this could have gone either way in my eyes, but to my surprise it worked! The students are loved it!

This type of activity gave my students the opportunity to engage with each other after a long summer break, and it also showed me who my leaders and strong personalities were, and who my more quiet voices were. This worked, because it wasn’t a threatening environment, it was fun, and they truly enjoyed working together.

After the students were done organizing their list of 18 items we discussed what they “used” and “didn’t use” while being stuck in the desert. This was a great ice breaker because after each group had shared their picks our classroom discussion drifted into a deep thoughtful talk about perspectives. It was really cool to see students reach that level of discussion on THE FIRST DAY!

For this upcoming school year I’ve been mulling over what to do. I thought about switching from this activity to something else, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Will I switch eventually? Most likely. As for right now, I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

Thanks for checking out my blog. To see what activity I’m talking about click here.

Have a great day and rememeber, be you, be confident, be amazing!

Thanks again,

Kelsey

Fourth Quarter Never Ends!

Why does the last portion of the year feel like it’ll never end? The rest of the year flies by, but the last few weeks and days drag on FOR…EV…ER.

While school demands fell never ending it doesn’t help that students are getting antsy. Needless to, the struggle bus is real.

A few things that have been working very well for me in the last few weeks is that I’m having my students work on a research paper. I get what you’re probably thinking, Omg, why!? But it’s actually been very successful.

I was toggling back and forth between ending the year with a novel, and I couldn’t decide. As simple as it sounds I just asked the students for their input, and…(drum roll, please) they picked to work on a paper, which I was SUPER excited about because they had just mastered the art of writing a five-paragraph essay. Whoop! Whoop!

I started teaching my brain even more, and finally it came to me, CONSPIRACY THEORIES! So, for the past few weeks my students have been working on their papers in my “coffee shop”, and it’s been a dream!

We’ve slowly been working through the research portion, and I was surprised at their lack of skill in this department. (I’m not blaming them or my colleagues at all, I mean they are 7th graders and I’m used to working with seniors.)

THE PLAN

So after evaluating their skills before our researching began I scheduled my weeks like this.

WEEK 1: Intro assignment, discuss credible sources, begin researching PROS

WEEK 2: Review sources, begin researching CONS

WEEK 3: Review sources and pick out the good stuff from the extra. Begin writing if haven’t already.

WEEK 4: Write and work on citing sources, but in-text and works cited page.

– – – – – –

What has been very helpful is that the students are coming up with great topics. We are currently coming into week four and the whole process has been surprisingly easy.

TOPICS

Some of the topics that have come up are:

  • Tupac
  • JFK
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Amelia Earhart
  • 9/11
  • Area 51

TOOLS

What had also been a HUGE help is Google Classroom. Because of how the access is set up, or can be set, it makes my students’ lives, and mine, easier. I’m able to sit with students on five them individual attention on thrir assignment. Whether a student has questions of how to create a thesis, transitions, organization, etc., I’m able to jump on to their assignment and show them an example. It’s so great! I can’t imagine what I was doing before Google Doc and Google Classroom.

I’ve had a lot of fun with this assignment, because not only have the students truly had a say in their education, but I’ve enjoyed learning about their conspiracies and finding out what intrigues them.

** If you would like more posts about lesson plans, or anything else, drop a comment below!

Best,

– Kelsey