To open the class (and the year!) I introduce the protocol that we use for Think, Pair, Share and have students practice the skills by learning about each other with the PowerPoint Slides: Welcome to Algebra I.
As the instructions on Slides 2 and 3 indicate, students have time to write down what they would like their classmates to know about themselves. Then, they discuss these details with a partner. Finally, I have partners introduce each other to the class. I use this activity to demonstrate the importance of actively listening and the opportunity to learn from each other. The activity also makes it clear to students that everyone will have a chance to speak in front of the class.
I think it is vital to begin to work on a culture of sharing and respect right from the beginning of the year. It is important for students to feel safe to share and to critique if we are going to learn in an environment that supports the development of mathematical practices.
In this section, the class works on the Activity: Classroom Observation and Analysis. I have students take a tour of the classroom and jot down observations and comments/analyses about the classroom. My intent is to get students up and moving around, and, to have students observe the different parts of the room. I hope the tour will spark questions about how the class will run, what the expectations and norms in the class will be, etc.
After taking observations, students complete another Think, Pair, Share and discuss their findings with a partner and then with the class.
In this section I give students time to read over the Algebra I Course Syllabus. I then walk the students through the syllabus, section by section. To conclude the section I have students ask any clarifying questions, concerns, feedback.
To facilitate Family Communication I have students review the syllabus with their parent/guardian at home and have a parent or guardian sign the syllabus. I also leave a section for parents to update their contact information and let me know what the preferred method of communication is.
To conclude the lesson, students complete an Exit Ticket that identifies norms that they think are important for productive and respectful academic conversations. I also have students explain why they think each norm is important to them.
For homework (in addition to reviewing the syllabus with a parent) I have students complete the Homework: Course Goals Idea Organizer. This tool helps students organize their ideas as an initial step in the writing process. For this idea organizer, students are asked to identify goals they have for this class and, perhaps more importantly, what they think they will need to do to accomplish these goals.
The use of the Idea Organizer is one symbol that indicates the important role that writing has in the math classroom. I think that being able to organize and explain the way that you think about a math problem has huge potential to engage more students, and engage them in meaningful ways that lead to deeper understanding.