Math = Love: First Day of School Plans

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Day of School Plans

Well, since the first day of school is approaching soon, I decided I ought to start figuring out just what I'm planning to do on that all-important first day.

My first instinct was to go over the syllabus on the first day, but I've decided against that.  First of all, the students won't be getting their schedules until the first day of school.  We are going to have an assembly on the first day and then pass out schedules.  I teach at a very small high school.  We have approximately 180 students in 9th-12th grade.  There has been an incredible amount of teacher turnover, new administration, and lots of changes occurring.  The counselor is expecting the students to be in shock on the first day. 

To be honest, I'm not even sure how long I will have my students on the first day of school.  We have 50-minute class periods, but I'm assuming they will be shortened due to the assembly on the first day.  I guess they will let me in on this information soon. :)

Day 1

Bellwork: Students will enter the classroom, pick up a dry erase pocket, and follow the instructions on the board.  (Hopefully, they will be up on the Smart Board.  My projector doesn't work.  The school has ordered new projectors, but they haven't been installed yet.  School starts in less than a week...) Students will write their name, their grade in school, and exactly 6 words to describe their summer.

Introductions: I plan to introduce myself and then have each student introduce themselves.  They will tell everyone their name, grade, and the 6 words they chose to describe their summer.  I expect to have small enough classes that this will be feasible to complete in a reasonable amount of time.

Procedures / Expectations:  I plan to go more in depth on these on the second day of school, but I want to give students an overview of what to expect.  I plan to share my expectations on entering the classroom, bellwork, etc.  I will also give them a heads-up on exit tickets.  Each class period will start with bellwork and end with an exit ticket.

Problem Solving:  This year, one of my main goals is to teach my students how to problem solve.  I've devoted an entire bulletin board to problem solving strategies.

We'll briefly discuss what problem solving is and look at the posted strategies.  Then, I will present them with this problem to solve:

This problem is taken from a collection of problems called Stella's Stunners.  Each day, students will be presented with one of these problems (or a similar one from another resource) as bellwork.

My Goals In Doing This

 - These problems help level the playing field between students.  It doesn't matter what grade you made in math class last year.  It doesn't matter if you did or didn't do the homework last night.  If you've been absent for a week, it doesn't matter.  Students should have no excuse not to try.

- Students will likely look at these problems and have no idea where to start.  That's a good thing.  That's also one of the reason I created a bulletin board of problem solving strategies.  When students take their end of instruction exam or any standardized test, there will almost always be at least one problem on the test where they have no clue what to do.  Instead of having students just guess "c", I want my students to know that they have options for how to proceed.  They will have strategies in their problem solving tool kit.

- Though these are non-routine math problems, they are still math problems.  By working on these at the very beginning of class, students will be in more of a math / problem-solving mindset when the day's instruction begins.

Carol Dweck's Mindset book is a must-read for every teacher!

- Whether a student figures out the puzzle or not on any given day, I believe they will all still benefit from it.  Great conversations will be sparked.  Students will be engaged.  They will have tried strategies, saw what worked, what didn't work, and learned from their experiences.     

Exit Ticket:  I read somewhere the other day about a teacher who has students complete the sentence Math is... at the beginning of the year.  The teacher (I wish I could remember who it was) said that asking this question gave great insight into a student's attitude and previous experience with math.  So, I had planned to give this as my exit ticket on the first day. 

But, then I read Kristen Fouss' great #MyFavFriday post this morning.  At the end of the year, she had students summarize what trig is in the form of a tweet.  Students had 140 characters to define trig (#trigis).  I really liked the idea, but I'm not teaching trig.  A few hours later, I had the epiphany that I could have students do their Math is... exit ticket in the form of a #MathIs tweet.  Again, students would be limited to 140 characters.  I actually think that by formatting the exit ticket in this way I will get longer and more thoughtful responses. 

Additionally, I plan on having students repeat this activity at the end of the year.  I think it will be fun to be able to compare a student's view of math at the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

#MathIs Tweet Strips
So, I made a fun little form to hand out as my exit ticket.  I also stole Kristen's idea of making a page with 140 little boxes to help with the character count.  I was able to fit 4 tweet strips to a page. 

So, here it is.  I'm so excited to use it! 

Download file here.


  1. I love these ideas. I know what you're going through with all the changes. Our middle school just finished moving into the high school building. It's going to be a big adjustment for our upcoming sixth and seventh graders.

  2. I'm stealing your #MathIs page. I loved it when Kristen did it last year. Good luck on the first day. Don't worry if you don't get to some of the procedural stuff. You have a lot of time to set your expectations.

  3. I love the #mathis. I don't like to do a lot of procedural stuff the first day because my students hear very similar procedures every hour all day long. Have a great first day!

  4. It sounds like you are very well-prepared for your first day! (It's better to over-plan, in case you have 50 min. in one period and not some of the others.) I love, love, love your #mathis, and I downloaded the strips just fine. Thanks for making it easy to do so and for sharing your ideas!

  5. How do you manage an exit ticket EVERY DAY? What do you with them all every day??? I would LOVE to know your secret, but to me that would seem overwhelming. Please do tell!!!

    1. Hi! I'm afraid I don't have a secret. Honestly, I've only ever done exit tickets once or twice in my life before. But, I'm not assigning daily homework problems, so I need a way to check how my students are doing on a daily basis.

      I don't plan on grading them. So, I think I'm just going to look through them at the end of each day, make notes about who gets what / needs extra help / etc. And, then I'm going to toss them.

      I do have really small class sizes which should help. When I figure out a system that works, I'll definitely be posting about it.

    2. It is hard to grade them. I try to, but it was a challenge with four classes. I can't imagine doing it with six or seven classes.

      I intend to make my exit tickets a little easier to grade. The grades will not be recorded in the gradebook, but I do like to show the class how well they did. If there is no recorded grade, students tend to not give it any effort. I had some students flat out refuse to do them (and I didn't know how to handle that) made the grades count.

    3. Anonymous August 26, 2012 8:54 PM is me.

  6. Sarah - I've updated my blog post to include your amazing link. Your idea was the inspiration I desperately needed. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Love these ideas! Cant wait to implement several of them this year. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Thanks for sharing Stella's stunners, that is a great resource (with a super interesting background behind the person "Stella").

  9. Have you ever used plickers? That sounds like an interesting way to get feed back from students. Tami Redus

  10. Thank you for sharing!!

  11. Hi! I am just wondering how you get your students to do the warm-ups... I am working on my plans and what I need to change for next year, and the warm-ups were a really big challenge in my classroom. We had pre-made warm-ups, enough to use every day. Some of them were spiral review kind of questions, some of them were questions to get them ready to learn the new material, etc. All of the warm-ups had 4 questions... they were really useful and well thought-out warm-ups, but sometimes it took students too long (15 minutes to answer all questions), then it took too long to go over all of the problems, and most of the students would just wait until I would go over the problems and copy that down. I asked other teachers, but no one really had much advice to give me... what is your advice? Do you grade students on the warm-ups? If so, how do you grade them? If you don't grade them, how do you get the students to do them everyday?
    Thanks for sharing all of your awesome work!

    1. My warm-ups are just a single question. We did them on mini dry erase boards which seemed to make them more fun. I think I was lucky in that most of my students wanted to work the problem and see if they were right. Of course, some students would just wait and copy their neighbor's answer... :(

      I don't grade the warm-ups. And, I try to never spend more than 3-4 minutes of class on them.

    2. We are fortunate to be one on one with computers were I instruct. I utilize google classroom to post the warm up or problem of the day. I do this in both math and science classes. It takes some time to get everyone to bu. I also have them begin with listing the learning target for the day at the beginning. There is a due date and time preset by me. I am able to evaluate answers digital and give comments and help with misconceptions and give positive comments. by viewing digitally it helps me see trends of misconceptions . This takes minor time during the day or after school and I can do it anywhere I have internet and do not lose any:)

    3. This sounds like a great idea for me this year. I needed something I could set up ahead of time and require minimal time to check. Thank you!

  12. This is awesome! Thank you for sharing! Do you have a pdf of your posters that you used for your problem solving bored? I want to make that a focus for me this year also! Thanks!

    -Jocelyn Providence

  13. Hi! I've been following your blog for several years and have gotten so many great ideas and resources from you. Thank you so much for all you do!

    I just noticed that you referenced Stella's Stunners in this post made some time ago. I've been trying to pull up the library of Stella's Stunners but the site seems to have lost funding. Do you happen to have the collection downloaded or know where it might be available?

    1. You can still access them through the Internet Archive's Way Back Machine. Here's a link: