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  • Writer's pictureFarica Erwin

To begin...

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

The first real week of school is always devoted to learning routines. AND our first week is usually a four-day week! I cannot even begin to tell you the benefits of easing back into routines and the beauty of letting your body recover from the most exhausting week of the year.

To begin the year, I love using Sara VanDerWerf's Name Tents. It is a great way to get to know the students. I also provide a prompt each day, otherwise I get "I don't have a comment" on a lot of them. Since I sometimes teach the same students again, I change the prompts each year. This year, I used:

  • List 3 traits of your all-time favorite teacher

  • List 3 traits that define you

  • What is your favorite "sport" to watch or play?

  • Share a boring fact about yourself. (borrowed from @drrachelbrenner)

I do not need them to learn their names because I know who most of them are before they enter my room. I like to use them as a way to individually interact with the students. However, this week, I was horrible about remembering to return them. And reminding them to write in them. And collecting them. It was basically a disaster. None of the students seemed to notice.

Random Groups

Starting on Day 1, my students are seated randomly. Every one of the student chairs is numbered. Each student gets a number based on my roster. That is their number all year. I have a max of 16 students in each class and use 4 groups of 4. Every student is required to sit in their numbered seat every day. However, every morning I change where the seats are located based on a Random Grouping Sheets document. (All I have to do is highlight column A, click the down arrow, and choose randomize range. It then changes the group configurations.) They must get to class to find their seat before the bell rings. Best part of my day is watching them hunt for seats!

Day 1:

After having the discussion about Friday's activity, we worked through Sara VanDerWerf's 100 Number Activity. We play 2-3 rounds. After which, I always ask if they noticed me taking pictures (of either activity). It's a great discussion about how focused they are because they never know, even when I forget to silence the camera clicks.

In addition to discussing more group norms and routines, I use this time to explain my picture taking. Students (and/or their parents) sign a photo release for school. However, I still feel like I should ask and get their permission for using their picture. Everyday is different and there may be some days you just do NOT want a photo taken of you. I explain that I post everyday to Instagram through #teach180, but the pictures are of the math and not them. They will know I am taking them because I say things like "I need a picture of that," or "freeze your arms for an over the shoulder shot." If I ever take a picture of their face, I will ask them first, it will be staged, and it will be used only for the internal school slideshow or parent newsletters. I do not post their face to my Insta (even with permission). I just don't wanna deal with the mess.

Day 2:

Wrong answer! Cute boat though

About a third of my students had a field trip. Using Fawn Nguyen's Noah Ark problem (via Sara VanDerWerf's blog as the original links seem to not work anymore), I introduced the Stand-And-Talk routine that I also got from Sara. I love that the students usually see all of the important info before they ever see the problem. Many of my students even give ideas for what the question mark in the problem might mean before asked.

Day 3:

Now that everyone was back in class and I felt like I had been introducing so many routines, I decided to introduce another! Questions Stacks by Sarah Carter @mathequalslove

I love this routine. Self-paced and self-checking, the students begin to love them too.

Students are supposed to enter my class having already mastered solving equations, but ... things happen, new students arrive, assumptions are made (and we all know about those). So I spend two days having the students go through three different QS with three types of solving problems

The activity helps to remind students of their solving skills they already have, and allows me to work with those who need refreshers.

Pro Tip: If you print these on business cards, use a marker or highlighter to color the inside seam on both sides. This way you can still color-code your sets for when one ends up on the floor.

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