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 
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 

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 

 -Marielouise, for the T2T service

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