Day One

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Aug
  • 23
  • 2008

Syllabus? On Day One!? Are you nuts??

Seriously, consider ditching that dry bit of talk. Push it off as much as you possibly can. The students only need to know certain things right now and chances are that info isn’t on your syllabus. It can wait until later. For now, you have a stage to set and what you do today will impact the rest of the school year. Not irreversibly, but this is important stuff.

Day One for me:

Speech (Period 2)

Breathe And Scan: Everyone comes up to the front of the room, breathes in and out, turns their head to scan the entire audience, says first and last name while still breathing steadily, scans the audience one more time, and takes a seat.

Partner Presentations: You have a total of ten minutes to find out as much about each other as you possibly can. Person A, you are the person who woke up earliest. Person A, you need to find out about Person B in the next five minutes. Person A, the only things you can say in the next five are questions. Teachers: when five minutes are over, switch roles. Give them two minutes to piece together a presentation about each other and then start.

Anecdote – Speech #1: Never too early to start the first assignment! Since I have audio of last year’s students giving their speeches, I’ll pick a few to have the class listen to and evaluate. These speeches will begin next Wednesday.

Plane Trouble: Using the opening minutes from the pilot of Lost, I set up the situation that people crash landed on an island. On their own, they have a list of possessions that they rank in terms of importance for survival. They then rank those items again in a small group. The written piece at the end of this is all about how they decided the order on their own compared to how it was decided in the small group. This is the first in a series of small group discussion activities that culminate with a group speech.

English 1 Support (Period 4)

People Hunt: Taking yet more ideas from Dan, specifically some things he posted on the firstday wiki, we’ll start off with a chance to walk around the room and talk to each other. “Find someone who…” and you can imagine the rest of the page. Part of what I want here is to encourage confidence and fluency in these students. That’s going to be a huge part of this course and helping them succeed in their English 1 class.

Partner Presentations: Similar to Speech but more structured, we’ll have a set list of five questions to answer. Each pair will also create one question of their own. When presenting each other in front of the class, I’ll have a series of sentence starters that they will use (My colleague’s name is…, When not busy with other things, s/he likes to…, I found out that [name] was born in [location], etc.) to encourage not only complete sentences, but variety in sentence structure.

Who I Am: I slightly modified this handout (PDF) and students will begin to work on filling in details about themselves. This is again a confidence builder and an insight into their writing competency. These will result in a paragraph and presentation on Friday.

English 3 (Periods 5-7)

Songs: Again from the firstday wiki through the mind of Damian and something I did last year, I’ll be playing two songs for students: “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You” by Black Kids and “The Geeks Were Right” by The Faint (I will not be showing those videos, just playing the songs). My twist on it this year, though, is that we’ll read the lyrics before listening to the songs in order to start getting at inferential thinking. We’ll summarize the story, learn about the speaker of both songs, find some kind of theme, then move to discussion about the type of song it will be. After hearing the song, we’ll see if that impacts our understanding of it. I’m banking on most students not having heard of these songs or these bands. Let’s see how that goes.

Zombies: Impersonating a zombie says a lot about interpretation of character. We’ll engage in that during the closing minutes of class. In groups of four, students will impersonate zombies for each other given certain scenarios I call out: you’ve been a zombie for a long time, you’re a brand new zombie and don’t quite know what to do, you used to be the President before you became a zombie, you were on your way to the mall when you became a zombie. Closing discussion will have us talking about how the scenarios impacted our characterization of zombies and the common aspects in all of our impersonations. Surely a segment from Shaun of the Dead will find its way into class. Excerpts from World War Z and Zombie Preparedness Initiative will become models for what we write this week, as well as entry into reading nonfiction.

What does your agenda look like?


1. Sarah says:

[8/25/2008 - 7:47 pm]


Thanks for reminding me about the first day wiki. I’d forgotten about it and totally need to steal ideas.

2. Todd says:

[8/26/2008 - 4:59 pm]

Excellent! So what did you end up stealing? What did you do on Day One?

3. Sarah says:

[8/26/2008 - 6:41 pm]

Well, we’re still working out schedules. Half the school doesn’t know what they’re taking. Teachers sure don’t know who’s in a class… Y’know. And my classes today ranged from 1-4 students.

So the “Find Someone” game didn’t happen. But I’ve updated the wiki with a link to variations on the game. And I totally love Dan’s Who I Am sheet.

I did steal from Teachers At Risk for discussion questions. Gave students the option to write and share something at the end, pair and take notes on their partner, or discuss as a class (again, with 4 students this is still classified as a small group discussion).

It’s definitely an odd feeling when you have The First Day (incomplete/unknown roster), The First Day II (we’ll see what happens then)… Striking an odd balance between culture building and connecting to the subject without introducing anything important for the week it takes to begin to solidify.