No, it’s not just a breakfast cereal. I teach my English students that the most important sentence in any written work is the first one. So it is that the most important week of a school year may be the first one. Just like some wonderful novels, it’s possible to have a great year after a slow start, but starting smart sure helps. I’ve been trolling the ‘net the past few weeks to accomplish my first week goals, and I think I made a pretty good haul. Suggestions from other teachers were a great help, too—whether they share online or in person, teachers are the best!
Here are five goals I’m working on to get my year off to a great start:
- Introduce myself to my students. While I always have a good percentage of returning students who are familiar with me, the new students are understandably nervous about this “school for pregnant girls.” I think their number one fear is that they will be judged, and my first order of business is to reassure them. One way to do this is to let them know I’m human and to do so with a touch of humor. I’m excited about this, because of the really fun PhotoPeach slideshow/quiz I used to create my introduction. This tool is probably my best find of the summer. I hope to use it for student presentations or photo-based reviews or quizzes later in the year.
- Give students a chance to get to know each other. Pregnant or not, teenage girls are more worried about fitting in with their peers than about getting along with their teacher, so this is an important step. Other teen moms will be the best support system they have, so they need to get to know each other. I’ve got several things planned to accomplish this goal, like creating a QR code introduction poster where students give a basic introduction to themselves and list six words or phrases that describe themselves, using Kaywa to generate the code. (My QR code introduction appears here, in case you’re interested.) We’ll create and post word clouds with Wordle or Tagxedo using whatever words the girls choose to express themselves. Frequent small group classwork will also help create an accepting classroom environment.
- 3. Introduce rules, policies, and procedures. I think my students appreciate order and routine as much as I do; the challenge is to not bore them silly with it. This year, I’ve created a QR Code Scavenger Hunt for my classroom rules and will post QR codes for each of the rules throughout our campus. Students will be sent out in groups of three or four to find and record them and will compete to see which group can complete the list first. I’m a little nervous about this one, because it will depend on enough students having phones with QR code readers. While one of the school rules involves no unauthorized use of cell phones, I want to make positive use of their phones as learning tools as well. Policies and procedures will be introduced a few at a time, as they come up during the first week.
- 4. Orient new students to the building. The QR Code Scavenger Hunt will serve double duty here. We have a small campus, and I only have six classroom rules. There should be one for each major area on campus.
- 5. Let students know I take learning seriously. I want students to know that we’ll be digging deeply into subject matter all year, beginning with the first days of class. I’ve got a Facing the Future Global Issues Trivia Quiz to introduce major environmental science concepts, Mad Libs to practice using parts of speech in English, and demonstrations of lab equipment with a practice quiz for each instrument’s purpose in biology and physical science. Treating each of these as a game or competition should engage students’ attention. I generally oppose external learning rewards, but a piece of chocolate is a powerful motivator!
In a 1-to-1 school, students need to get laptops assigned as soon as possible to help them make the best use of the technology-based lessons. After the first few days, we’ll jump right in to orientations to class websites and Digital Citizenship refresher classes. It will be chaotic, with students transferring in and out of classes and the school; every year seems to begin in chaos. But when the dust settles, I hope the time I’ve spent thinking about goals for the start of school will prove to be a smart move toward a great finish!