Day two is really my first day of class due to the freshmen class meeting on the first day. When the students come in they'll find a handout with their name on it (to again help them find their desks) with a suggested layout for how they organize their notebooks.
Then my natural inclination is to jump right into the content. While I value class culture tremendously and I admire teachers who can generate a great discussion on day one (or two), I've never been successful with that. I can barely get my students to talk at all the first couple of weeks of school. So, let me put that part on hold for a bit, then return to it later in this post.
As I mentioned previously, my math department asks students to complete a Math Skills Assessment over the summer. These are prerequisite skills that the math department feels enable students to be successful in Algebra at Arapahoe. Consequently, the first thing we're supposed to do is assess our Algebra students over those skills (a common assessment). Last year my class didn't meet on Tuesdays (Algebra only meets four days a week at my school), so I asked students to review on their own during the two days between the first day where we really didn't meet and our second day (in addition to the review they hopefully did over the summer), then gave the assessment after a very quick opener reviewing the skills.
This year my class meets on Tuesdays (and not on Thursdays), so I think I will devote some class time to reviewing these skills (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions; adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing integers; and Order of Operations), and then assess on day three. While my "stand and deliver" gut response is to dazzle them with review, my initial thought is to have the students work in groups to develop the review themselves. I've purchased a set of 8 large whiteboards (roughly 24" by 32" from here, thanks to Frank Noschese) to use this year. Last year I grouped students into groups of four (with one or two groups of three to make it work out evenly), and I anticipate doing that again this year (currently 31 students, so probably 7 groups of four and 1 group of 3). I'm thinking of giving them one skill at a time (adding and subtracting fractions; multiplying and dividing fractions; operations with integers; order of operations - may break it down further than that), and asking them to work in their groups to explain the skill. I'd have them use the whiteboards to demonstrate what they know, then pick one or two groups to share with the whole class. (I'd also capture the whiteboard images and post to the class blog.)
I think that sounds okay, but things always take longer than I expect and I'm worried that with 8 groups and only one or two being able to share on each skill that they others will feel like they're wasting their time. So, alternatively, I'm considering giving each group their own skill (probably adding fractions, subtracting fractions, multiplying fractions, dividing fractions, adding integers, subtracting integers, multiplying & dividing integers, and order of operations - to make it work out to 8 groups) and that way each group is responsible for something on their own and reviewing for the entire class. Two concerns with this approach. First, some of those skills are easier (and quicker) than others. Second, I could by chance have a group that's not capable of generating a review on the skill they get.
So, which approach would you favor? Or do you have a different idea altogether?
Now, back to the culture piece. While I still don't feel like I can lead/generate a good discussion this early in the year (and that early in the day - my class of teenagers meets from 7:21 - 8:20 am), I feel like I need to do something to address the culture of our classroom. So I'm considering spending a little time talking with them about my philosophy and thoughts about this class. That's still very much one-sided, just me talking at them, but perhaps it's better than ignoring it altogether (and maybe a few brave souls will join in). Last year it wasn't until about three weeks in that I shared some of that with them and perhaps sharing it sooner will help.
Thoughts on that? Or anyone want to try to convince me of another activity surrounding culture I should try?
The homework for day two would then be to spend as much or as little time as they think they need to review the skills (by using the skills assessment website and/or the whiteboard images captured in class that will be posted to the blog) in preparation for the common assessment on day three.