Telling Lies that Sound True: Building Classroom Community on the First Day

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SWBAT initiate and participate in classroom discussions by participating in activities designed to build classroom community.

Big Idea

Students develop "untruths" in order to build classroom community and become familiar with classmates

Do Now

8 minutes

This is the launch lesson for the school year. As my students enter the room, they will find a prompt on the board. The prompt directs them to silently complete the interest survey within 8 minutes.

Each day that students enter, they will have a "Do Now" activity of some sort. This is how I get the students warmed up for the work for the day. Sometimes, it is a pre-assessment for future work that we will do; other times it is a review of something we did the previous day. Either way, the "Do Now" is done as soon as they enter, and it is always connected to our work. 

In standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1  students must be prepared to participate in a range of discussions and to express their ideas clearly. After they write their ideas on the survey, they will be more prepared to share some of them with the whole group--I hope.

Today, the "Do Now" activity (interest survey) will allow me to learn more about my students because we will be working closely for the next 9 months. I chose this interest survey because the questions are short and uncomplicated and the questions will allow me to learn more about the human side of my students. In the months to come, I will need all of the information I can get to develop engaging lessons and to select engaging material tailored specifically to their needs. Teachers wear many hats, and the diagnostician hat is one of them!

Introduction--Who are you? Who am I?

30 minutes

I ask students to create a name tent that has the following information:


  • Name written in large letters centered in the middle of the name tent.
  • favorite food in the upper left hand corner
  • favorite subject in the lower right hand corner

I am placing name tents students' desks so that I can get to know the students quickly by referring to them by name on the first day of class. This is important because the quicker I get to know them by name, the faster we establish the community we are trying to build in the first week.

Next I will ask if they have ever heard of the game "Two Truths and a Lie." If students have heard of it, they can explain it to the group.  If not, I give the directions. Students will write down 3 very detailed and convincing statements. Two of them will be true and one will not be true. These statements must be so detailed that the rest of the class members will find it difficult to select the lie. This is an opportunity for me to assess and for them to practice CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3d because they will need to use precise words and phrases to create a vivid picture with their statements. I can informally assess their use of details in developing their two truths and a lie during this activity and use this data later as I develop future lessons aligned with this standard. 

I'll give each student an opportunity to read their statements and select someone to guess which one is the lie. As students call on their peers, those students will read their statements next.  I will be giving them 1 minute 30 seconds to write their statements before we begin the game.

At the end of the activity, I will explain that we will continue to get to know each other over the course of the year by engaging in different activities such as this one.

I chose this activity because it is a fun way to get to know the students, establish routines/norms for working together, and it is an awesome trick for pre-assessing their use of precise vivid words on THE FIRST DAY!


Building Knowledge: Reading is like...

15 minutes

Now that we have learned about their personal likes/dislikes, I will tell my students that I want to know about some of their academic dislikes and likes. In this part of the lesson, I will have them do a gallery walk discussion so that I can find out what they REALLY think of reading and writing.

This is an opportunity for my students to practice CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d because they will need to respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives about reading and writing, AND they will need to be prepared to summarize the groups' thoughts if called upon.

I will ask students to follow me to the poster entitled, Norms for Paired Discussions Poster.  I found this list and adjusted it from I selected these norms because they include the idea of referring to the text, and the list is concise and includes everything I want them to remember when engaging in group discussions. I will review the expectations for discussions and ask students to give examples and non-examples of the norms. I will be sure to check for understanding of these norms and ask students if they think we should add more before moving to the next activity.

Next, I will students that you I have posted 5 pictures around the room 1) a window, 2) a mirror, 3) a bucket, 4) a fountain, 5) a road.  I got this idea from Kristine Scarry, our supervisor of English Language Arts. This video shows a sample of one of the pictures I am using. On a piece of paper, I will ask students to respond to the following statement by identifying with one of the pictures: Reading is like...

I will give students one minute to describe why reading is like the photo they selected. I will explain to my students that they will be moving to stand near the photo they choose. This is where I introduce the routine for transitions. I will tell them that transitions are done silently and they are timed. I will also remind them that if they are not silent, they will need to go back to their seats and do it again until it is silent and timely.

After the directions, I will give my students 10 seconds to silently move to the poster that best shows what reading is like for them. In order to help with the transition, I will count down from 10 to 1. I will also remind my students that they should all be in place with their eyes on the speaker when I get to 1. Mouths should be silent...I'm watching...and listening!

As students discuss with others at their pictures for 2 minutes, I will listen and take notes.  I will have one students from each group summarize the groups' discussion.

I will ask students to think about how they might switch pictures if the statement was "Writing is like..." After 2 minutes of small group discussion,  I will have one student summarize  the groups' thoughts.

At this point, I will ask students why they think I am asking them these questions.  I will end this segment by sharing with them that I need to gather as much information/data as possible about their reading and writing behaviors so that I can make solid instructional decisions this year. After that, I will have them silently transition back to their seats with 10 seconds to get there.

Application: Let's talk!

15 minutes

As we transition to this part of the lesson, I will explain to students that there will be lots of opportunities to engage in accountable talk this year. We will have already done this today by engaging in whole and small group discussions. Next, we will engage in accountable talk by working with different partners. Clock partners  are a way of working with many different partners for a variety of different discussions and tasks this year.  I will provide  2-4 minutes for students to sign up for partner discussions for 12, 1 and 2 o'clock. I will remind  them that they and their partner must sign up for the same appointment time in order for it to work.

After the sign-up is complete,  will ask students to find their 2 o'clock partner and read and discuss the first page of the syllabus. (3 minutes) I will be reminding them to adhere to the norms for group and paired discussions.

I will provide additional time for them to read the syllabus and discuss it together, and I will be pausing to check for understanding by calling on students to see if they know specific information from the syllabus. At the end of this activity, I will have students silently return to their seats.

I am choosing to have them read the syllabus this way because it allows them an additional opportunity to practice the focus standard for today CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 by discussing elements of the syllabus with a peer and asking questions to the whole group (if they have them). The other reason is because today is about engaging them and I don't want to bore them to death with reading my lovely as it may be.



5 minutes

For the closure activity today, I am having students respond to the following before they leave:

"On a post-it list 3 things you learned about our classroom community today.  Post your post-it on the window as you exit the room."

I am having them respond to these questions because it will allow me to see whether all of the discussions and activities for today have resulted in any new understanding of how our classroom will operate this year. This is also practice for being able to summarize their learning every day, as we will have a closure activity that involves some summary, analysis, or synthesis of their learning for most lessons. I can also use these closure slips to identify any areas of confusion about the routines for the class. Finally, this is a writing opportunity. Students will write a lot this year. These short writing opportunities are good for assessing spelling and grammar as well.