Q&A #6774

What to do the first day of school

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Aug 28, 2001 at 22:43:47
Subject: Re: What to do the first day of school - High School

Hi, Cheryl, The first day of school sets the tone for the rest of the year. It has been several years since I have taught high school. However, for more than 10 years I started the first day with a seating procedure that was purely random. I would put into one jar the numbers from 1 to 30 or whatever I needed. In another jar I would have the numbers from 1 to the same number. As the students came in the door I asked the first student to draw a number and hold the jar for the other students who came in. The other students sat down after drawing a number. I would greet them when the bell rang and then asked them to get out their numbers, pick up their things and stand in the front of the room. I would choose a seat starting at the front of the room. I would then draw numbers from my jar and the student with that number had to sit in it. I wrote the students name in the square in my book. We would continue this all of the way until everyone was seated. For seniors I would start with the "balcony seats" near the back of the room. They were most desired as they were near the windows overlooking the parking lot. Those in the back could have the windows open and feel the breeze in the hot August days of Indiana. From this seating arrangement I would form groups that would stay together throughout the first chapter or first two or three weeks. What did I achieve? We had some fun at the beginning. We frequently had students sitting together who would never be chosen to do so if their behavior be known. There was a sense of "luck of the draw." Once students were seated I would give them a survey sheet to be returned the next day as well as a synopsis of the course. Behavior rules were addressed as follows: Anyone whose behavior interferes with the right of the teacher to teach and any student to learn will be spoken to directly. If behavior did not change after a one-to-one meeting, the next meeting would either include the dean of discipline or the parents/guardians. School rules of attendance, tardiness, dress code, etc. were followed as stated in the school policies. Parents were to return a signed copy of the course synopsis as well as the behavior rule within a week. Opportunity was offered for students/parents to question this rule. The last handout was the class agenda varying in length from one chapter for freshmen to the entire quarter for seniors. The first day of school sounds pretty overwhelming. It was. The students went home with a taste of what everyday would be like: some fun, some serious work, and a sense that we were in this room together for the purpose of everyone learning. The subsequent week or weeks would be spent learning routines of collecting and distributing papers (every class had two 'mail persons' who do this. They sat next to the "in" and "out" files), distributing and collecting materials used (every class had students responsible for this), how attendance and tardiness would be recorded (every class had a secretary who answered the door, recorded absense/tardies), how the class would move into groups and out of groups (we actually practiced moving chairs/desks), how homework might best be addressed (generally in groups with the teacher answering only the questions no one could answer). The homework during this time was review, generally the first one or two chapters in the text. By the time the classes were ready for new material, procedures were pretty solid and we were a working unit. As a teacher the only papers I touched in class were tests which I distributed at the end of a class directly to each student. Discussion followed on the next day after the students read through my comments. You probably ask: How did you keep discipline? The class did a lot of their own disciplining. As teacher I was the "ring master" directing the activity. I did not do the clerical work on a daily basis. When the teacher or student asked a question or gave an answer, it was expected that the entire class be silent. For freshmen I always tried to have three or more different activities going on: homework, classwork, lecturing, closing. This generally meant moving out of their seats at least twice. For a minute there is chaos and then back to work. Upper level students spend longer periods on work. I found cooperative groups work. To get them to work, you have to work at it. This is what was done in the beginning of the course. These may seem unorthodox to a reader. They worked for me, my personality and my students. Keep the kids busy is my motto. Time flies when you are having fun. -Marielouise, for the T2T service

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