In my classroom, we have a castle theme this year. So as a getting to know you activity, I decided to have the students create a coat of arms. On the coat of arms, the students will create a design with symbols that represents things about them. For example, if a student likes to play soccer, they could draw a soccer ball or a pair of cleats on their coat of arms. I also suggested the students use their favorite colors in their design. After they finish their coat of arms, I have them present their coat of arms and explain the meaning to the class.
I have a throne in my room that goes along with my castle theme this year. We call it the "Royal Readers" throne. Students get to sit on the throne and present their ideas in the microphone.
For this getting to know your activity, each person thinks of an animal or an object which has the same first letter as their first name. Then one by one we go around the room and introduce ourselves and also include the animal or object which we have chosen. For example, I introduce myself as Mrs. Strebel monkey. After each person has introduced themselves and their animal or object, I challenge the students to see if any of them can remember all the names of the students in our class.
Instead of a set of rules, I like to focus on character traits in my classroom. This year since we have the castle theme, I came up with the Knight's code of chivalry. We talk about the character traits that were important for Knights to possess. The traits we are focusing on this year our honor, valor, courtesy, and truth. We talk about what each of those traits mean and what they look like in our classroom.
The other thing that I really like to make clear to the students, is that we all have strengths. We all have things that we are good at. On the flip-side, we all have things that we can work on. Just because we do something better or faster than someone else does not mean that we are smarter than they are or better than they are, it just means that happens to be our strong point. If we are not good at something that does not mean we are stupid. I use the example that if someone were at to ask me to play football, I would not be very good at it. I do not know the rules of football. I know the basics that you try to catch the ball and run for a touchdown. But beyond that I would be useless. My husband on the other hand played football in high school. He watches football and knows quite a bit about the game. I ask the students, "Does that make him smarter than me?" Then I tell them about how my husband struggled in school with reading. I loved reading when I was in school and was pretty good at it. "Does that make me smarter than my husband?" I tried to emphasize that we all have strengths and that's what makes us unique. If we were all good at the same things life would be boring. I tell them that each of them is special because they are unique. We need to remember we are here to help each other and lift each other. We all have things we are good at and we can all learn from each other.
I usually wait until the 3rd week of school to assign homework. It eases kids back into the swing of things and lets me focus on the paperwork I need to collect from the kids.
We also like to complete pre-assessments the first couple of weeks. The pre-assessments consist of all the concepts taught in 4th grade. They serve two purposes. The first purpose is to guide our instruction. If the students already have a good foundation in a specific area, we do not need to focus on that area as heavily during our instruction. On the flip-side, if there is an area in which most of the students struggle, we know to hit that concept more heavily during instruction. The second purpose is to show growth. We give the assessments 3 times during the year. The first is the beginning of year assessment. The second is mid year and the third is at the end of the year. We graph the results of the assessments to show growth to parents at parent-teacher conferences. Lack of growth can be an indicator of a struggling student that needs additional interventions.