The Second Day of School: Teaching Expecations through Nonfiction Reading

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Students will be able to determine central ideas and cite evidence for answers in by reading the syllabus and answering text-dependent questions in a scavenger hunt.

Big Idea

Secret, hidden teacher expectations are no good for anyone. Teach the rules, teach the expectations, so that you can actually teach the content.

Reading the Syllabus

15 minutes

I always spend time reading through the syllabus with my students.  I didn't spend mumblehours writing the thing just so they could take it home, maybe show it to parents, and throw it away.  Nope.  I've worked very hard over the years to transform my syllabus into a two-page reference sheet for my class expectations, so students are going to read it.  Thoroughly.  And they're going to like it.  Maybe. or possibly not. See this video to hear how I treat the syllabus, not as housekeeping, but as a real-world nonfiction text.

I'd asked students to take the syllabus home and read it with their parents. That means that when we read it in class, we're reading it for the second time, which is good because  I get them used to reading texts multiple times right from the start.

I asked students to read sections aloud so I could have a formative assessment on their reading fluency. Since at this point, I don't know all students names and faces, I randomly call on students using alphabetical order. That way I can just run down through my class list, hear them read, and make a note.

Another take on this is to ask students to read the syllabus aloud in groups and then move from group to group asking for students to read. 

Syllabus Scavenger Hunt

20 minutes

Once we've read the syllabus, it's time to extract main ideas from the text. I want students to know specific things that will help them be successful, so I'm focusing on those for the text-dependent questions I ask them.

I asked students to complete this in a group, as a competition.  First group to get done, will all correct answers, gets the reward of three! punches on their punch cards. Second group gets two! punches, and the third group gets one punch. Please see the reflection in this section for information on the super simple punch card. 

Each student got a copy of the questions.  I told students that they would need to work together in their groups to find the answers to the questions. I had two versions of the questions. My honors classes received the version that required them to write down the answers, while the English 7 classes, which was a multiple selection version. Both versions required students to cite which section of the syllabus they found their answer in.

Each group got the questions at the same time so the game would be fair. Fairness is very important to seventh graders.  If one team got the questions before the others, there would be rebellion and mutiny.  It's just not worth it, so I waited to give the groups the questions.

They quickly got to work because they wanted to win.  They nominated one person to write down the answers and the rest looked through the syllabus.  Some groups divided up the questions so each member of the group was looking for a different answer. Some groups worked on each question together.

When the group finished, they all raised their hands for me to check their papers.  I don't think there was a single group all day that got every question right on the first go. I did tell them which questions were right by placing a check mark next to the questions that were answered correctly.

 I then put the first group's answers under the document camera and went over the answers with the students.

Responding in Writing

5 minutes

To provide closure, I asked students to write a response answering the questions in the picture.  I wanted to see if they could, from the syllabus, put into words my expectations for them as students.  I also wanted to hear from them what they expected of me as their teacher.  That's not to say that if they expect me to do eight jumping jacks a day, I'll do it.  That's crazy talk. However, it can also be enlightening and slightly depressing to see what students expect of teachers.

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