First Days 2017-2018 #MTBoS12Days

Day One; Friday

Our first day is a 1:00 dismissal and this year we requested that we get to see all of our classes which meant short 23 minute periods with every class then lunch and done.

I wrote on the board: "Pick your seat for the next two weeks." I make them fill the front up first but otherwise don't move them. This let's me see right away who cannot handle sitting next to each other. We switch every two weeks but I don't let them pick again until the last two weeks of school.

On the Smart board I have directions for them to go get a star cutout and write their name, birthday, and favorite candy on it. This shows me how well and how quickly they can follow multiple directions and helps them start finding their way around the room.

While they're doing that I passed out address labels with my Remind code and number printed on them and explained how I use the app. I also showed them a composition notebook and explained how we use them and what type they needed and to please get that for Monday.

I literally explained each drawer of my cart and how to read the labels instead of pulling out every drawer and talked about how much I loved my room and my things and to beg ask them to please help me take care of it.

Finally I shut up and passed out "Back to School Bingo". I made cards (.docx, .pptx) that were 4x4 with common summer activities listed and they had to sign their name by one they did, then go stand and talk to someone else, listen to their story, and sign their name on a box until all of their boxes were full. When I noticed a lull in conversation, I brought them back to their seats and asked each one to share something about someone else.

I then made a huge deal out of how I never give homework except for today. See Sara's post.

That filled 23 minutes and promoted my values: routines, procedures, interest in others, conversation, movement, sharing with the class, and connecting.

Day Two; Monday

Today we start setting up our binders and notebooks, get our first dry erase marker of the year and do our first Mental Math Monday of a year's worth of bell ringers.

We also used our chrome book set for the first time today, logging onto Google classroom and entering our correct answers for MMM as well as typing our responses from Friday's homework.

If you didn't read Sara's post from above, then this won't make much sense but I connected the idea of patterns with the pictures of 6 different mathematicians (.pptx). The big reveal was actually telling them that they were all mathematicians which led to my "Not Just Dead White Dudes" bulletin board.

Day Three; Tuesday

Today we tried out my first Doodle Infographic syllabus (.docx, key, pptx). The syllabus is always a weird moment for me because the freshmen know nothing about me or my classes but the seniors have had me four years in a row and know me better than I know myself. I feel like the Doodle part was helpful because seniors could enjoy coloring while hearing me say things they already knew.

Day Four-Six; Wednesday-Friday

Every year I do this and every year I could do it better. I tried another one of Sara's ideas, Top 10 things not to ask me about your calculator. I make TI-84 cut outs and we color code notes and tips on how to use the buttons. One calculator and the left skinny side of this doc go on the left side of the INB and the right larger side of this doc goes on the right side of the INB. (key, .pptx)

Weekly Wrap-Up

One more post from Sara that I highly recommend is on using name tents to communicate with students every single day of the first week. At such a small school, I know everyone's names before they even get to me so instead of using name tents, I had students private comment on a google classroom post. After the first week I switch to two weekly wrap-up questions. One is silly and the other a little more serious but both random, non-academic, and not required. I post them on Sunday night and students have all week to answer. I remind them to answer on Fridays and then over the weekend I read and respond to all 85 on my phone. This is just a way to open up the lines of communication and touch base with every single student at least once a week. If you aren't going to respond, don't do it all. If weekly is too much then try every other but my strong advice is to TRY SOMETHING.

Also, do anything Sara VanDerWerf says.


Reaching "That Kid" #MTBoS12Days


I can't say it enough. Students repeatedly tell/write me how having a teacher that treats them like a real person, who cares about their life outside of school, who can laugh with them, and who cares about their day really makes the difference.

I didn't start out my career knowing that this is a strength of mine but once I realized it I try to put it into words as often as I can for those who might need some suggestions.

Every Monday, ask every class if they want to talk about their weekend. It will be weird at first but I'm sure you have a talkative class clown kind of student who will get it started. Every once in a while go around and ask each student individually. You don't want to put them on the spot but you also want to show you're including them. You'll know you've made progress when the students' start to ask you about your weekend and when they get offended if you forget to ask (or don't ask quickly enough).

Every Friday, ask a weekly wrap-up question that isn't academic. I do random, one silly, one with a little more meaning. I did these on paper for the last few years and now currently use Google Classroom. I also read and respond to every single one so there is a time commitment but I'd say it takes me about an hour to do 85 and since it's on my phone, I can always find the time. It's a great way to find out more about students, ensure you make contact with every single student at least once a week, and opens a door for more serious conversations when needed.

Celebrate their birthdays. I buy candy for every student on their birthday but I understand I am weird. At the very least, write on the board or announce it to the class. Dollar Tree makes a chair cover that says Happy Birthday. I also let students sit in my comfy rolly chair. For summer birthdays, we celebrate half-birthdays. It's the day they feel most special so it's weird for someone they see every day to not acknowledge it.

. Now I don't give compliments if I don't mean them but I try to give them out as often as I can. This again shows students that you notice them and they matter more to you than a test score or a warm body. I start out with appearance/wardrobe compliments and then get more personal about their work ethic or abilities or personality. I also find it weird when students ask me if I dyed/cut my hair and then they just stare at me and walk away. Maybe they need to be taught how to give compliments? lol Also if a student directly asks me if I like or noticed something and I don't, I immediately respond with a question. Do you like it? When did you get it done? Where did you get it? Don't hesitate- then can smell fear.

Ask the class how their day was, how it's going, or how was lunch. Ask their opinions on school activities or events coming up. This seems so silly to even type out. Treat them with basic human dignity and kindness please.

And my number one tip, ask random questions. I know that it seems like I've already touched on this subject but for some of my more annoying and loud students, this has worked the best. I seek them out in the hallway or randomly through class and just ask them a random question. Literally anything. And I do this consistently until it seems like a game to them. And then they start seeking me out for 'today's random question'. I don't know why but maybe it takes the pressure off of the teacher-student relationship? It gives us something silly to laugh about? It shows that I'm seeking them out?

While I can't think of anything I've done that just completely turned around a kid's behavior, I know that these strategies have made our classroom culture more enjoyable, given me way more laughs and good moments, makes me looking forward to seeing my students again, and makes classroom management problems few and far between.