Sunday, August 16, 2015


Mid-August means my Facebook newsfeed and pinterest boards are filled to capacity with back to school activities and articles on teaching.

Normally I skim these articles, but this {one} about what to not do on the first day of school. I re-read several times.  It rattled around in my brain and I struggled with some of the information presented.

I struggled because I fundamentally disagreed with some of the points being made.  That disagreement made me question if my teaching philosophy was skewed and my priorities were off.  However, after far longer than I'd care to admit, I came to the decision that those points in the article were not ones I'd accept.

So what did I have such a strong reaction to?  

These apparent "no no's" of the first day(s) of school:

"Discuss Class Rules"

It's not the first thing we do, but it is discussed.  We make our classroom norms together with a gallery walk and anchor charts.   We read some picture books on class norms and create our expectations together.  I think having defined schedules and expectations helps students feel comfortable because they know what the boundaries are.  Plus we create them together, so they feel an immediate sense of ownership.

"Assign Seats"

I make it clear to my munchkins that we will switch seats (and class jobs) often.  However, I don't want the first impression in fifth grade to be a popularity contest and students scrambling to sit by friends, leaving others out.  I'd rather everyone has an assigned seat because that helps cut down on anxiety.  Everyone belongs.  Everyone has a safe space.  Everyone is included.

"Make students introduce themselves"

I don't make students stand up and share their life stories, but they do have to introduce themselves to their table teams.  One of the activities we did at DENSI was finding things in common with our team.  We had to find 10 statements that were true for all our members of our team.  I think I'll cut it to five, but I want students to have conversations about what they have in common.  

I'll also have them do "Find Someone Who" over the first few days of school to help them bond with one another.  

"Assign homework"

Their homework on the first day is filling out their agendas correctly and having their families go over the welcome packet.  They also do silly "math about me" and "me as a reader" interest surveys so I can gain more information about them in a not so creepy way.  They've got homework, but it's fun.  They need to get back into the routine of school and that involves (meaningful) homework. 

I agree with other portions of the article (make sure you smile, greet all students) but these four "no no's" were actually must do's for me.

Fellow teachers, what are your thoughts?!

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