Monday, August 16, 2010

Day One

Today was the first day of school and it was kind of anticlimactic. On the first day of school each class has a class meeting during one period, and the freshmen class met during first period. Since the majority of my class is freshmen, I only got to see them for about twelve minutes before taking them to the class meeting.

I knew that going in, so I didn't plan a lesson, we just went over a few things about the class. When they walked in they found Algebra textbooks on their desks, each one with a slip of paper on it that had their name so they could find their desk (mostly alphabetical to start, helps me learn their names, but a few students were out of order because they need to be in the front). The paper also had the URL for the class blog on it and a message that that's where they could find the homework for tonight.

I greeted them at the door and said hi, then as they found their desks I had on the projector what they should do (find their desk, write their name and my name in the textbook, and that the freshmen would be leaving for their class meeting in about 10 minutes). After the bell rang I welcomed them and asked them to put their names in the textbook if they hadn't already as I went around and made sure I was pronouncing their names correctly.

Then we talked briefly about the weird schedule today and then I showed them the class blog and talked about each piece of their homework for Wednesday (our class meets four days a week, MWRF, so they don't have Algebra tomorrow). As you can see from today's post on the class blog, their homework was the following:
  1. Bookmark the class blog on the computer they'll be using at home. I talked about how they'll be visiting it pretty much every day, so they're probably going to want to make it easily accessible.
  2. Then they needed to review for the Math Skills Assessment. This is something the math department at my school does in the first couple of days of school for Algebra classes, to assess where they're at in terms of the basic computation skills they need to be successful in Algebra. As you can see from the Math Skills Assessment website, this year we asked students to work on it over the summer. As of this writing, we have 338 students who self-reported that they completed it (out of a freshmen class of about 580). That number probably includes a few who didn't and a few who filled it out twice, but there are also probably students who completed it and forgot to fill out the form.
  3. Then I asked them to read through our Class Expectations and then fill out the form to indicate they've read them. I also encouraged them to have their class supplies with them by Wednesday. Some of the students had already completed this, as it was part of the email to their parents I sent out about a week ago, but most have not.
  4. Then I asked them to write their About Me and get it to me as soon as they could. Again, several students had already completed this ahead of time, which was nice because I was able to refer to a piece of info about them in class when I was talking about the assignment. "I know so-and-so can probably dance just a little bit better than me. Of course, when I grew up Disco was popular, so all of you can probably dance better than me . . ."
  5. Then the last part of their homework was to take their textbook home and place it wherever they study, take a digital picture of it, and then email it to me. We won't be using the textbook in class, so I want it safely home where they can use it as a resource when they need it.
Then we had a little time left so I took them on a "field trip" of sorts. We walked by the Math Office so they could see where they could go to get help if I'm not available, then we walked by my office (I'm not in the Math Office because of the rest of my responsibilities) and talked briefly about how they can get help from me (schedule it in advance if they know in advance and I'll put it on my calendar and make every effort to be there, but if they don't know in advance they can always drop by and see if I'm there - they just can't count on it because I'm so often out and about in the building). We also talked about our Study Center as another place they could get help, but I couldn't show them that both because we were out of time and that's where students who hadn't picked up their schedules yet were getting them.

It's hard to do much in 12 minutes, and I always hate the first few weeks before we get to know each other and they're so quiet, but the day went fine given the circumstances. Wednesday we'll start with an opener and then the Math Skills Assessment, and then we'll develop some expectations for each other. That last part will be the first chance to really start talking/working with each other.


  1. Karl,
    I remember being back in the classroom after serving as Dir of Tech for a number of years. It felt, in many ways, like being in a foreign country--or at least in unfamiliar territory. After a few days, though, everything seemed to click. It sounds like you are off to a great start:)

  2. I look forward to learn how you integrate blogging and tech into your teaching. I will surely share this with our teachers.

  3. I just found this blog and it is really great. I will follow your four-day plan and re-learn algebra.