Math = Love: First Day of School 2014 - Introductions, Circles, Rules, a Monkey, and More

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Day of School 2014 - Introductions, Circles, Rules, a Monkey, and More

This year I decided to change up how I went about Day 1 in my classroom.  Considering the fact that I also changed up things last year for Day 1, you can safely say that I've never done Day 1 the same way twice.  :)

Year 1 Day 1 - Plans; Reflection
Year 2 Day 1 - Plans; Reflection
Year 3 Day 1 - You are here!

Totally goofed on the math problem for the countdown.  School pictures was in 10 days not 2 days!  Totally should have been a 2 in the denominator.  Luckily, none of my students noticed and showed up on Saturday for school pictures!  :)  
I greeted students in the hallway for the first day.  My first year of teaching, I did a great job of spending passing periods in the hall.  The math teacher across the hall from me was a first year teacher as well that year, so we offered each other lots of moral support.  I spent a lot of time in the hall practicing names.  When you teach in a school with less than two hundred students, there is an expectation that everybody knows everybody's name.  I'm not sure what caused it, but I was hardly out in the hall last year at all.  Most of the time I would spent the passing periods at my desk trying to get organized for my next class.  Or, I would sit at my desk and relish a moment of doing nothing.  But, I feel like I missed out on seeing the kids that weren't "my kids" that year.

This year, I'm determined to be a presence in the hall.  I want to be that friendly face that tells students "Good Morning!"  I want to keep in touch with the students who are in geometry this year.  My freshman are taking advantage of my being in the hall by asking for reminders of where various classrooms are.  Our schedules this year listed all of the room numbers as "Unknown," so they have nothing to go by except the name of the teacher.  We don't have a ton of teachers, but there are three different floors.  I can't imagine being in a new school with new teachers and not being able to look up where my next class is located.

When students entered my classroom on the first day, this message was on the SMART Board.  Algebra 2 and Trig classes got the same message.  I just changed the name of the class.

On the desk in the doorway, there was tub holding ziplock bags of tangrams and IQ circles.

I bought my tub of tangrams a while back from Amazon.  Love them!  I'm assuming that y'all know all there is to know about tangrams.

The IQ circles are a new addition to my classroom courtesy of my mom and her awesome bargain hunting skills.  I'm pretty sure she paid a dollar for the entire tub of these puzzlers.

Inside each box, there is a black, circular case.  My students claimed that these looked like they held makeup!  

And, inside each case are pieces to make a circle.  
The box claims that there are more than 10 ways to build a circle out of these pieces.  I dumped out the pieces of one of the puzzles to try.  Fifteen minutes later, I still wasn't able to put the circle together.  I knew that it had to be possible because I had just dumped out a completed circle.  I put the puzzle aside out of frustration, and my sister ended up completing it for me.  We're super competitive, so that made me feel great!  
To ensure that my students wouldn't take the easy way out and try to cheat, I dumped all of the circle puzzles into their own individual ziplock bags.  But, before I did that, I opened all of the puzzles up and took pictures of them in their solved states.  I counted twelve different solutions in my box.  Twelve different solutions and I couldn't even find one on my own...

Students who picked up bag of tangrams were instructed to make a square using all of the tangram pieces.  Students who picked up a bag of circle pieces were to make a circle.  Some of the students tried to make circles out of the tangram pieces.  That didn't quite work out for them.  Other students didn't realize that they were supposed to build the circle in the black case.  Students worked on these puzzles while I took roll and did some first day of school administrative stuff.

Our first day of school was on a Thursday, so this fit perfectly for Brain Teaser Thursday.

Students were still working on their puzzles when I began my introduction of myself.  I had a few students who were able to complete the circle or square, but the majority of students were unable to complete them in the allotted time.

I already blogged about my 30 Awesome Facts You Should Probably Know About Ms. Hagan presentation here.  Some students listened better than others.  Some were too involved with trying to solve their puzzles to pay much attention to me.  Oh well.  Sharing facts about myself led to some great conversations!  It gave my students a view of me outside the classroom.  I think they needed to be reminded that teachers are real people with real lives, too.  :)

Next, I wanted a chance to get to know my students better.  I've already taught approximately 40% of my students before.  So, some I know quite well.  Others I just met.

At #TMC14, I was part of Elizabeth's Group Work Working Group.  It was truly one of the highlights of my TMC experience.  One of the activities we participated in was a classroom circle.  Classroom circles are based on restorative practices.  I'm not entirely sure what that means, but maybe it is enlightening to somebody? LOL.  What I do know is that there is power in meeting in the circle format.    

First, I had to teach my students how to make a circle.  For classroom circles, this just means that everybody needs to be able to see everybody else in the circle.  During this time, I allow students to stay in their seats, stand, or even sit on the furniture.  If they make a square, that's completely fine as long as everybody can see everybody.

Next, the rules of the circle: no talking unless you are holding the talking piece.  At TMC, Elizabeth had a dodecahedron that she had knitted that we used as a talking piece.  I can knit, but I haven't found the time to sit down and knit my own dodecahedron yet.  [Fun fact of the day:  Before I was a math teacher blogger, I was a knitting blogger.  Because it's totally normal for a 15 year old to start writing a blog about knitting, right?]  I knew that I wanted to do a classroom circle on the first day of school to let students introduce themselves.  But, I didn't really think it through and plan my talking piece.  Scanning my room on the morning of the first day, I saw my stuffed monkey.  He was a Valentine's gift from a couple of students last year.

This will do.  This monkey will become a sort of mascot for my class.  I let my first hour name the monkey.  They voted on Henry.  So, if you're in the circle, you can't talk unless you're holding Henry.  Another rule follows from this: No Commenting.  This is SO hard for me.  When a student says something, I'm used to making some sort of comment.  Students do have the option of raising their hand to indicate that they wish to have the talking piece.  Once Henry is in their hands, they can speak.

Having just introduced myself, I told students that I now wanted to know more about them.  We were going to go around the circle.  Each person would say their name and a fact about themselves that they wanted to share with the class.  Students also found the no commenting rule hard.

I love the circle structure for several reasons.  Number one.  I suck at classroom management.  Keeping the room quiet and the students focused is hard for me.  Number two.  I love to have students share with the class.  But, side conversations have a tendency to start, and I always feel bad that the later sharers receive less attention from the class as a result.  The circle structure keeps everyone focused.  One person has the talking piece.  One person is the focus.  That person is the focus as long as they feel they need to be.  Some students shared something a quick fact.  Others told a more involved anecdote.  Every student listened to every other student.  And, every student knew that they were being listened to.  Every student got a chance to speak.

I'm modifying my Good Things routine this year based on classroom circles.  We will create a circle before sharing.  And, students will have to hold the monkey in order to share their good thing.  I think this is going to be a positive change this year!  I just need to work on the no commenting rule!

Now, my 4th hour Trig class had to be difficult.  They decided that they didn't like the monkey's name.  Instead of Henry, they decided that the monkey was a she and should be called Cinnamon.  Do you realize how crazy you sound when you say things like, "You are not allowed to speak unless you are holding Cinnamon."  One student said he was going to go to the store and buy a container of cinnamon so he would always have the right to speak.

Since we're over a week in school, here's an update to the monkey situation.  Downside to having a monkey as your talking piece: students tell other teachers in the building things like "Ms. Hagan has this monkey in her classroom, and it's a stripper monkey.  It hangs out on a pole.  And, it even has a stripper name: Cinnamon."  NOT what I intended.  :)

Next, I announced to my students that they needed to take out their cell phones.  Some were hesitant to do this because they assumed that I was trying to trick them and was going to take them away if they got them out.  Nope.  I just wanted them to sign up for text message alerts from Remind.

I wrote the instructions for signing up on the board during meet the teacher night, but I think I had a grand total of one sign up as a result.

Next up: discussion of supplies for INBs.  This year, I gave students a list of optional supplies for the first time.  I provide glue, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers for my students.  But, over the past two years, I have found that some students wish to have their own.  After all, markers that have been used by 100 students quickly become less than perfect.  I've had several students in the past buy their own sets of markers or colored pencils, and they have seemed to be happy with that.

And, then comes the time to get serious.  My 5 new classroom rules for this year.  These are inspired by Harry Wong's The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher.  For students who have had me before, these are drastically different rules/consequences than I have ever had in my classroom.

Here are my consequences:

Students weren't too thrilled with the consequences.  They did seem to be more okay with them after I mentioned that names on the board would be erased at the end of each week.  So, they can break one rule each week without punishment.

Next, I asked my students to write a tweet about what they thought intelligence was.  I created the hash tag #IntelligenceIs for this.  This confused my students SO much.  Maybe it was the font I used???  They thought the I in "Is" was an L.  "Ms. Hagan, what is Intelligencels?"

I'm also pretty sure that my students are not major tweeters because they had a ton of trouble understanding the meaning of 140 characters.  In fact, one of my students even told me that twitter was not cool.  Ummm...I beg to differ.  :)

Here's the strips I made for my students to write their #IntelligenceIs tweets on.

My first year of teaching, I had my students write #MathIs tweets.  I feel like these were much more fun and enlightening to read.  But, you never know until you try something new.

Download the #IntelligenceIs Tweet Strips here.

The idea behind #IntelligenceIs was to see what my students thought about intelligence in regards to growth mindset/fixed mindset.  I was hoping to have time the first day to give my students a growth mindset quiz that I adapted from online, but we ran out of time.  So, they didn't get to see this terrifying slide until Day 2.  :)

Oh, and I can't forget to mention one of the most important things we did on the first day of school.  I taught the students how to use my new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies!

I posted a full review of this awesome pencil sharpener complete with an enthusiastic how-to video of myself using this pencil sharpener on youtube.  If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a student in my class, this video should give you a good idea of that.  If you decide to order one of these for your own classroom (and you totally should!) there's a coupon code for 5% off your purchase at the bottom of my review.  

After I sharpened a pencil in front of the class, I invited volunteers to come up and try the pencil sharpener.  I was notified by one student that "This isn't the 19th century any more.  People use mechanical pencils nowadays, Ms. Hagan!"

Day 1 ended with a reminder of what happens when the bell rings.

This is a big change for me.  I've overlooked it in the past when students got out of their seats and started lining up at the door.  Not this year!  I won't dismiss students until they are all seated, all supplies are put away, and all the trash is picked up off the floor.

Day 1 was fun.  I have an especially large, especially fun bunch of kiddos this year.  I think it's going to be a GREAT year!


  1. Wow! Many changes for you this year! Sounds like the first day was fun and productive. Good luck with the rest of the year!! :)

    1. Thanks Stacy! I think they're going to turn out to be good changes!

  2. Do you use Circle Time past the first day? What do you discuss during Circle Time? I would love to implement this with my class.

    1. I started the year doing Circle Time every Monday. Students share "Good Things" that have been happening in their lives lately. As the year has moved on, we're still doing Good Things, but we're not getting in the circle. I kinda miss it!

  3. 1st day every student fell confuse in college and fully excited your spending time idea very nice thanks for share it sop writing .

  4. I have just installed iStripper, and now I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.

  5. Can you tell me where you got the IQ circle puzzles? I have looked online, and it appears they have been discontinued! Or maybe send me a template? I absolutely LOVED the idea of giving the kids a puzzle.