You will need copies of your Algebra ll course description and the Algebra ll Unit 1 Syllabus as well as any "official paperwork. I also have Popsicle sticks ready. I recommend jumbo size craft sticks (easier to read off) otherwise regular work. Today sets the tone for the rest of the year. While I don't teach new content I very purposefully teach classroom procedures and expectations. To begin I have a seating chart completed and student-name labels on the desks. I use folded index cards and keep them to use throughout the year whenever I rearrange seating. I also use tiny sticky labels on my seating charts, then put each class chart in a clear plastic page protector and put them all on a clipboard. This makes it easy to make notes about students using a water based (erasable) marker and simplifies seating changes.
I don't immediately begin with the paperwork, but instead tell my students a bit about my summer. This year that will include an explanation of BetterLesson and possibly a preview of the site or a video clip. This builds a stronger personal connection with my students, especially when I include time for them to share memorable experiences.
I have official school documents they need to complete, a textbook and calculator checkout sheets, course description and syllabus ready to be distributed. I make sure my room is ready with materials and tools in their proper places, objectives posted, and hall pass hanging by the door. You'll notice abbreviated references to the math practices on the syllabus I give my students. I have a poster of the CCSS Math Practices on the wall in my classroom so that my students and I can reference them as needed. Since I teach at a very small school and also teach science, I will have seen most of my Algebra ll students in an earlier class (or two). This is an advantage since I don't have to try to learn more new names and faces, however it also means students already have expectations based on earlier classes which may not be apply to Algebra ll. For example, my more basic level classes are building communication and organizational skills that I expect my Algebra 2 students to already have (to some extent). The same applies to calculator use and other mathematical tools given that these students are juniors or seniors. As this may pose a challenge for some students who are comfortable in the freshman/sophomore “mode” I frame what we do as a step towards college and career readiness. I have several methods for distributing papers, depending on what they are and the size of my class.
To wrap up this part of the class, I pass out the Popsicle sticks and ask each student to write their name on one side. I use these to randomly select students for class activities and discussion. If there are any of my former students I'll have them explain the process which models sharing ownership of the process. I put all the sticks in a plastic cup labeled with the class period to be used whenever I want to randomly select students. I first learned about this as a classroom management technique called "kids in a can".
When the papers have been reviewed I ask for any final questions, then tell my students they will be working in teams today to solve a calculator challenge. I explain that for today they will be working with a partner but that sometimes they will be working independently or with a different partner or two. To assign partners for today I tell my students that they will be working with their right-shoulder neighbor. I walk them through the process explaining what to do if they're in the last row, if someone is absent, or if there are an odd number of students on any given day. When everyone knows who their partner is, I tell them to move their desks to work collaboratively, reminding them that they will be putting the desks back at the end of class. Next, I review my expectations for teamwork; that everyone participates, that everyone has a right to be heard, and that respect is paramount.
When we're good to go, I project copies of the Fish and Smile images from the Calculator Equations document by setting up two calculators with the images under my document camera. I tell students the team challenge is to reproduce these images as closely as possible. (MP1, MP2, MP4, MP5) I explain that they will be sharing and explaining their work with the class so they need to be prepared to clearly detail the process for creating the calculator images and that they should save the images on two different calculators. This challenges draws from Algebra 1 and Geometry students should be able to be successful.
As the teams are working, I walk around the classroom encouraging and redirecting as needed. I also use positive reinforcement for good math practices and good collaboration. For example, I might observe a student directly asking a teammate what they think about the problem and respond with "You're using good collaboration skills when you make sure everyone is included. Way to go!!"
As teams are successful in creatiing an appropriate image, I remind them of the presentation expectations and encourage them to prepare by writing out equations they used, (MP2). When everyone is ready (Some teams may not be able to reproduce both images without significant assistance, so I advise them to be prepared to present what they have accomplished and to pay close attention to what they classmates present. I don't walk them through the solution at this time but instead make a mental note of which students/teams may need additional help with functions or calculators or both.) or when there are about 10 minutes left in class, I use the popsicle sticks to select a team to present. The student whose name I draw goes to the doc camera with her/his calculators, written equations, and teammates. I review again the presentation expectations for both the team presenting and for the rest of the class.
Each team then gets to present one of the images (I have them flip a coin to see if it will be fish or smile) or both if there is enough time. (MP3) I use my IPad or seating chart to make notes about student strengths and weaknesses throughout this class, but particularly during this activity.
To close this first class I ask my students to write a brief notecard summary of their personal expectations and apprehensions about class. I distribute notecards and explain more thoroughly what I mean. I say that I want them to put their name on one side of the card and use the other side to write their response. I tell them that I want them to use complete sentences and appropriate vocabulary and grammar, but that I am also interested in what they have to say. Since most of my students may be accustomed to the traditional 30-40 homework problems from the textbook, I will have a least a few worried students asking what their homework is. I take that opportunity to explain that I will not generally assign daily homework but will instead expect their full participation and effort during class time. I further say that I am available for assistance before and after school and during lunch most days, so I expect them to come in if anything we cover is confusing for them. This puts the responsibility for recognizing their own needs and asking for help on them, a further attempt on my part to build college/career skills. I also find reading these first-day cards very enlightening since my students get to share what they want out of the class.