Despite the problems I've been having lately with my new position, I feel (mostly) ready to go for day one. As part of my continuing crusade against my previously poorly designed presentations and handouts, I decided to peruse what my blogosphere (the one in my aggregator) had to say about the matter. I found plenty of great stuff, which is nearly inevitable given the quality of educators out there sharing. Here's my plan:
Getting to know you
I've always felt teachers often spend too much time explaining who they are, or what the course is, or what the rules are right away on the first day. I knew my first day plans would focus first on who my students are, then work my way into expectations and procedures.
I vaguely recalled an old post on dy/dan where a beginning of the year "get to know you" activity was shared that struck me as not being stupid.¹ It took me awhile to re-find it (luckily Google Reader had a pretty good search), but upon finding it I knew I had something. I had to track back to his original post from 8 months earlier in which he posted the original blank document.
Here's my version of the document:
I really dread going over the syllabus every year. It's boring. It's so not a good indicator of what the course is about. But, we're required to have them, so lucky for me, in the same post where Dan introduced the above activity, he shared his more interesting syllabus. It required student participation, it looked good, and as Dan mentions, is different from the 47² other syllabi they've received that same day. At minimum, I figure a different syllabus will earn a couple cool points with students on the first day of school.
Here's my effort (blank):
I believe my fellow teachers generally go right into lab safety³, so I figure I'd better follow their lead at this point, since I'm still the relatively ignorant rookie. Instead of just reading each of the rules and making students sign their safety contracts, I figure I'll split them into pairs/threes and have each group design and create a safety poster explaining a rule of the lab. Then each group can come up, explain their poster and the importance of their rule, and we're not all bored to death.
A few (other) good reads regarding the first day(s) of school I've found:
- FirstDay Wiki
- created by the aforementioned Dan Meyer, it has several good ideas for opening day, and you can add your own if you'd like.
- An Open Letter to Teachers
- from Bud the Teacher, a motivational post on getting ready for the new year. Read it.
- What's matter?
- Doyle does such a great job of verbalizing (textualizing perhaps) science as a process. Science as not a set of memorize-able facts. This post on something he's done the first day of school regarding how matter isn't all we typically think it is makes me want to use his idea, but I'm not sure I could carry it out in the expert way he's described.
- Do it the right way, not the Wong way
- Tom in his typically cynical tone nails problems with the "classic" book The First Days of School by Harry Wong. This post in itself probably contains more valuable information for new teachers than the entire book.
¹ I guess I'm not a big ice-breaker fan. Perhaps it comes from my somewhat introverted nature. I've always hated ice-breakers.
² 47 may be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea.
³ Communication between everyone teaching my classes has been pretty slim, so this is based upon my best guesses.