Sunday, September 8, 2013

First Day of School

Click here to see my First Day of School 2014

I put up the same locker signs as I have in the past letting the students know I would be providing them breakfast for the first day (I informed them and their parents of this on Back To School Night). This group grazed on the donuts and muffins throughout our two hour orientation period.
Adorable napkins from Target dollar spot
Just to give you a little background on how we run our first day in 7th grade, we follow our bell schedule, but keep them the first two hours for orientation (normally 1st and 2nd period).  Encore hours are 3, 4, and 7 and we keep them the same so those teachers don't get cheated out of time the 1st day.  During our normal core hours of 5 and 6 we split them in half so we can do a 30 min class with each of our four core classes (normally hours 1, 2, 5, and 6).  Then we finish the day with a 20 min Homebase period which is like a study resource period.

My orientation time went great.  I have an awesome group of 1st hour accelerated math students.  We had lots of information to get through and they did a great job staying focused.  I had the students highlight their class schedules because we follow an A/B schedule for some encore classes.  They highlighted all A day classes one color and all B day classes a different color.  The hours where the colors mixed were the classes they have every day.  I then encouraged them to highlight their various classrooms on the map located on the back of their schedule.  I told them to write in the class hour and A, B, or E if they have a class everyday.  I never realized how confusing an A/B day schedule can be for 7th graders until my own son came through the middle school and I saw first hand how much these brand new 7th graders had to remember.  The layout of our school also confuses most people so imagine how it is for a a new 7th grader already feeling overwhelmed.

This year I decided to follow the same First Day Plan as I did last year because it went so well and I really loved the feedback I got from my students and I did not bore them to death with policies and procedures. This is what I did during my 30 min math classes.  We were short on time and did not even attempt "either or" that from the linked plans.  Well you know they saying about even the best laid plans...

I can relate was not what I would call a bomb, more like a fizzle, as in something I expected to go so well and was more like meh.  Overall I would say about 60% of the students completely got the concept, jumped right in, and kept the activity flowing.  The other 40% either were not completely clear on the concept or they just could not find ANYTHING to relate to another person about.  I mean who hasn't gone swimming or eaten some type of food for that matter.  It took much longer than it should have/I had planned for.  I think maybe we will revisit the activity again once students know each other a bit better.  It wasn't a total bust, but much bumpier than last year for sure.

Because I can relate took so long I adjusted in the afternoon and started with the Post-It note activity because I really wanted the feedback and I really wanted the students to feel they have a voice from Day 1.  I color coded the post-its I handed out by class hour so when looking at the comments I can easily see visually which hour they are from.

I changed up some of the prompts from last year

  • Our classroom should be ____ everyday
  • Math is important because...
  • Mrs. Nackel can be most helpful by...
  • This will be my best year of math because...

I loved the last prompt which was new this year.  I told my students that we are going to aim for the sky this year or "reach for the stars" Like my big banner says so I wanted them to think for a moment about what they will do different (or the same) to make this their best year of math.  Got some great feedback on that one.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I LOVE reading the reponses to the these and how much I learn about my students.

I have to say I had another awesome first day.  I did let the students sit wherever they wanted and this group is far too chatty for that right now.  Other years it has worked, but we have really big classes this year so we need to start with a teacher made seating chart.  I hope all you teachers out there had a wonderful first day!


  1. I saw your first day activity from last year and definitely "stole" it. I loved how it gave the students the chance to tell me what they needed. I already referred to it this year.

    I am a sixth grade co-taught math teacher and I look forward to your posts.


    1. Hi Miss Kay,
      I got the idea from someone last year. Glad you could use it. I do love the feedback I get so quickly and easily. I have many more posts coming about my first week once things start to settle down here.

  2. Sherrie,
    What did you use for your "chart paper"? It doesn't look like chart paper. Almost looks like large whiteboards.

    1. Hi Melanie,
      That was just tagboard I wrote the prompt with Crayola poster markers and then laminated. I will use them again next year, that's why I laminated them. Hope your year is off to a great start.

  3. Hi Sherrie!

    I've read a lot of your different blog posts and I subscribe too ;-) I wanted to ask you something about your homework/classwork grading methods.

    You state that you don't collect daily assignments, so what do you actually physically collect and then grade?

    Do you keep their tests and quizzes in a file in your room?

    Also, when you put grades in, are you putting 2pts as their homework grade each time. For instance, 2/2.

    I'm just curious because I'm implementing something similar but when it comes time to physically put their grades in the computer, I felt funny putting 2/2 as a grade! Please respond. Thanks. LOVE your blog!

    1. The only thing I correct and grade are assessments (quizzes or tests). I also correct exit or entrance slips, but those are formative so I do not put any grades in the grade book.

      Yes, in my gradebook a HW assign is worth 2 pts and if they complete it they get 2 pts. We are transitioning to SBG so I don't know how everything will be changing (including how I grade HW) that is TBD this ye
      Thanks for the nice comments. Once things settle down a bit I have lots more blog posts planned about the first week of school. I did some great new activities this year.

  4. Sherrie~
    It sounds like you had an awesome first day!

    Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans

    1. I did Michele. Hope things are going well for you!

  5. I love the breakfast idea! It's so welcoming! Was it for all of your students, or just first hour?

  6. I really love this idea, do you have the students put their names on the post-its at all?

    1. Hi Heather,
      I do not have the students put their names on the post-its. I do color code them so every class hour is a different color. That way when I read comments I know which class hour it was from, but I don't know the individual student who wrote it.

  7. Thanks for sharing your terrific ideas. I am going back to teaching math after taking 13 years off. I love reading your blog for ideas. I am going to borrow (steal) a few. Thank you

  8. Great ideas. I will be teaching Newcomers this fall and will use your ideas. Thank you, Bonnie

  9. Hi Sherrie,

    I really enjoyed reading this and several of your other posts. Very inspiring :). I'm thinking of using the post-it idea for my first day with my Grade 7 English students. Do you simply have the students post their stickies on the chart paper, or do you follow it up with a discussion so that the students can share what they wrote?



    1. Hi Rachel,
      We don't really follow up with a discussion the day they do the activity, but the next day we talk about the responses. I actually left the posters up all year and students would often look at them throughout the year. You can tailor the activity to work for you. Good luck!


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