Start of Year Difficulties

I haven’t posted all summer because I was away in NC, MD, MI, and France (wohoo!).  But I completely plan on continuing to reflect this upcoming year and I hope that my teaching practices improve significantly.

Ask I started to plan for the first few days (which happened last Wednesday–4 school days ago), I realized that there was a TON of different things that students had to know how to do in order to succeed in my class.  So much so that it was nearly eclipsing the material and content (perhaps it is?).  An experienced teacher once told me that he always wanted to do some math on the first day so that students recognize what is important in the class: doing math. This man is also my father-in-law, and so I honestly believe he was an incredible teacher and want to emulate everything I can that he did.

However, I feel like I have the following things to do before I can “get down to learning”:

  1. Talk about the Syllabus.
  2. Put names on Popsicle sticks (students doing this saves tons of time)
  3. Website scavenger hunt.  My teacher website has become huge due to all the online opportunities I want to give my students. So big that I decided to do a scavenger hunt (see below) for them to find things on my website.
  4. Participation Points.
  5. Have students create Google Accounts. Our school has decided to do away with school e-mail accounts because when they leave school, the school doesn’t have the money to continue giving them e-mail accounts, but that means that we can’t contact our alumni (mostly for Advancement).
  6. Student Survey.  Many of the questions are stolen from other excellent bloggers.
  7. Quiz.  I want to do this before explaining SBG so that they have some point of reference.
  8. Explain SBG.
  9. Explain SAS.  This is my student-initiated assessment form for students to fill out, if they want to improve one of their grades on their own time.
  10. Have students create a blog (using Kidblog).
  11. Setup Remind101 for students.

At this point I’ve done almost everything in all of my classes except setup Remind101.  I have so many options for participation points right now, however, I think I need to introduce them only a few at a time so students can swallow them and try them out. One thing I like is that I purchased a Facebook-like Stamp and I can use this on warm-ups or HW to entice them to work even though HW is 0% of their grade. Forget the 5 points that the stamp is worth, the students really just want to get stamped on their paper! Unfortunately, I think that fascination will wear off soon, which is why I decided to make them worth PPs.

One thing I did that I think worked out well was not trekking through the whole syllabus on the first day.  Instead, I did a scavenger hunt on my website.  That way students are navigating through it and getting comfortable with it, and it’s not just one more class where the teacher talks about procedures (even though I definitely could talk for 3 days straight about procedures!).  Here’s my scavenger hunt below if you’re interested. (Yes, both pages are the same–I saved it that was so I could print them side-by-side on our printer and save paper).



Filed under Teaching

3 responses to “Start of Year Difficulties

  1. Hi Jonathan. I think many teachers have similar versions of the 10 things you mentioned that need to be dealt with. But I’m wondering if you can just do one of those a day, leaving rest of class time to DO math. And could some of those items be assigned for homework?

    So jealous of your trip to France. Have a great school year!

    • Thanks Fawn! Yeah, next year I might do more math and spread the talking out more. The other thing that makes it tricky is that I teach Chemistry and Precalculus to some students, while some of my Precal students are in Physics and others aren’t taking either of my sciences… so I’ve got to explain SBG (and other things) to some students twice. I’ve decided to wait a while before explaining it to some of my classes so they have more than just 1 quiz of context.

      I wonder how long most SBG teachers wait to explain the process to their students? (I’m the only one at my school who uses it, so it’s totally foreign to my kids.)

      Thanks again and hope you have a great school year, too, Fawn!

      • Hey Jonathon,
        I have found it better to weave the explanation of SBG as students are doing a variety of problems–hence doing math early and exposing them to problems of varying levels of difficulty. Have them examine the problems to determine why the first problem is a level 2 problem; why is the second is a level 3, etc? What level of understanding are each of those problems “assessing”? They could talk as a group then share out.

        Good luck this year! I’ve dropped by often and I’m glad to hear you had a great summer.

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