Involving students on day one

I’m not sure what to do on the first day of my new middle school assignment (I started student teaching in the spring, so I never had the experience of a “first day”). Any suggestions? —C., Minnesota

On the first day, middle schoolers meet 6-8 different teachers. Listening to each teacher read the syllabus, describe the grading system, and review class rules can be overwhelming.

Ask your mentor about any required activities, and save most of the housekeeping for another day. Instead, introduce yourself and briefly describe the science course, including any big ideas that serve as a theme or organizer. Rather than going over class rules, describe the overall expectation on which the rules are based. For example, I would tell students that respect was most important in my class— they would respect each other, I would respect them, they would respect me, and we would all respect the learning process.

Use a brief activity—such as building a house of cards, describing “mystery objects,” or a card sort—to get to know your students’ personalities and how they interact. (Avoid any activities with chemicals, flames, projectiles, or heat sources until you have their safety acknowledgement forms.) You can observe their thinking and problem-solving skills and start to identify the leaders, thinkers, class clowns, and bystanders.

Or stimulate their interest with a brief demonstration. Or assign formative assessment probes from NSTA’s Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series. Try different ones to get a cross section of students’ prior knowledge and/or misconceptions.

The first day of school is exciting, stressful, busy, and a little scary for students (as well as their teachers). You want to set a welcoming tone for your students and communicate your passion for science and your interest in helping them learn.

Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kacey3/1263403799/

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One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Petersen
    Posted August 13, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Excellent Advice Mary!

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