I just had probably my best first week of school EVER. Seriously. If the rest of the year is this amazing...fingers crossed.
In the rest of this blog post I have just posted a few things that I do for the first day of school that, well..work. They just do. Its a bit random, but just some things that might be helpful.
If you don't have this book- go buy it. For real. I had a chance to hear Harry Wong speak as a part of my North Carolina Teaching Fellows senior conference. Looking back on it now, I realize how fortunate I was to have had this experience. The book itself is so useful and applicable to any classroom...but hearing him speak, that is on another level.
So...that is my absolute shameless plug for this book that really helped me to set a solid foundation for my teaching practice. This is my tenth year teaching and I still use ideas from this book.
He talks about the importance of establishing your Rules and Procedures on that first day. It clicked for me and that is how I start class every year. The way I figure...if I tell them from the first day...then they know my expect. Honestly, there is nothing worse that someone getting mad at you for something, well, that you didn't know wasn't okay to do. Sounds silly maybe? But if I specifically tell them and model for them small things like how to enter the room...well, then they know to slow down, take a breath and come into the room in a calm manner, showing me they are ready to learn, and setting the tone for class.
Here are my Rules and Procedures.
Mrs. G is my teacher!
One concern students have the first day is, 'am I in the right place?'. Besides the big ol' ART sign and Mona Lisa on the door I also stand at the door to greet my students with a smile.
I make sure my name is outside my door- and my credentials. I want my students to know that I am a highly qualified professional art educator. I list my degrees, I list my NBCT status. They need to know that I take pride in my profession and I they are in good hands.
Seating Chart...bling edition
I always have a seating chart. Period. With having so many classes, I put together this board that sits on an easel outside my door. There is a sheet protector attached to it so I can have all the seating charts in there for the day, the students find their seats as they come in the door, and when I close the door I actually pull the seating chart for that class, put it on a clip board and write notes on it, changes seats, etc.
So...how do they know where to sit? Signs, of course! I found these big 'ol paperclips one year at Target in the dollar area (I love that spot!) and it is easy for me to label the tables using these.
When the students come in there is a slide up prompting them to get out a piece of paper, part of a PPT I use on the first day.
Here is what it looked like this year;
Welcome to Art, 2012-2013
A letter to myself...
One of the teachers here at my school placed a few boxes of envelopes in the resource room...and it gave me the idea to have my students write a letter to themselves as their first activity. This is new for me but I am happy to report it was a big success.
My prompts are listed in my opening PPT, but here is the gist of the prompts I gave;
The main thing I want to stress is that for this to be effective you have to stress that this is for THEM. They are the only ones that will read the letter, as it will be sealed. When my students really made that connection...they just kept writing and writing. My intent was not only to set the tone for the year, to get them focused and to think of goal setting, but I wanted to give them a chance to do something for themselves, to capture this day, this moment in time.
I labeled each class, secured them with rubber bands and I will hold onto these until the last day of art class, which for my 6-8th graders is in May. So much can happen between now and May, they are going to grow so much and change and I want them to remember how they felt on the first day of this year.
Anyway, I will update in May as to how this worked out in the long run!
My teaching situation is unique in that I teach 5-8th grades. Weird, huh? Middle School...and then one elementary class. But I love it. I did do the letter activity with my 5th graders, but I also like to have them make name cards. This serves three purposes. First, it helps me learn their names. Second, it helps me quickly assess their work style and basic drawing skills/creativity. Third, I can see what they are interested in, see a little of their personality. I have my 5th graders for only one nine weeks then I get a new group and they are my biggest class so I have to make an extra effort to get to know each of them.
And...Marzano. Gotta have that, at least around these parts. One thing that has worked for me is to print my 'scale' on bookmarks. The kids get a bookmark, which is always helpful, and they have a tool for showing my their level of understanding of whatever we are working on at that time. They can place these on their table and point to their 'number' when I walk by and then we can talk about why that is the best description for them or they can hold them up. I have even had kids take extra to use in their academic classes, which I think is awesome!
I go over this with my Rules and Procedures.
Scales on the wall
I have the scales posted in my room (of course)...here is how I have my scales described and it works for me.
4-'I got this Mrs. G! ...and I can teach it to someone else'
3-' I understand...but I might need a reminder'
2-'I understand some of what you are sayinh'
1-....ummmm...I need some help!'