We open class today with an introduction and welcome to (among others) "Poet's Day!" Every school day, I post a holiday, observance, or birthday on the board. Some times we will take time out of class to discuss these, in order for students to grow comfortable presenting their ideas clearly, concisely and logically (SL.9-10.4) and adapt their speech to the task at hand (SL.9-10.6); other times we will use them to inspire a journal question, so students write routinely to develop and express their thoughts (W.9-10.10) and some times I'll just leave it on the board and see if the students notice, and seek to research further information on the topic (W.9-10.7) from appropriate non-fiction sources (RI.9-10.10). Today, I explain that with these Daily Holidays, my objective is to build a sense of community, trust, and a sense class identity in our classroom. Creating a community of learners is important, both to me personally and to the students in order to feel willing to take risks in the classroom.
On Day 1, as students enter the classroom, I greet them at the door and hand them a brightly-colored syllabus (typically to match the color of the textbook, Gr. 10 is Bright Yellow or Goldenrod).
Instructions are posted on the classroom board, "Please select your own seats based on your comfort level and needs. Seats may be adjusted as needed." I allow my students to select their own seats. I've found this allows me to identify potential "trouble spots", forces me to learn students names, and--most importantly--creates a sense of student ownership in the classroom.
Once students have settled down, I pass around a clipboard with a blank seating chart, asking them to fill in their names in their seats while we read through the syllabus. This year, in addition to asking for volunteers to read sections of the syllabus, I also asked students to volunteer if they had a favorite poet or songwriter, to connect to "Poet's Day." Asking for volunteers on the first day of class allows me to gauge who my active participants are and who is more passive. The students have the opportunity to present the information I provide clearly and concisely (SL.9-10.4), demonstrating command of formal English as appropriate (SL.9-10.6).
After reviewing the syllabus, students are given a copy of the "Welcome Back Scavenger Hunt" and given ten minutes to move around the classroom, finding other students who had the listed experiences or posses the requested knowledge. Students break out of their "sit-in-class" routine during this activity--initiating discussion, by approaching and asking their peers, and participating in discussion, by exchanging their ideas (SL.9-10.1). Students are encouraged to talk to a variety other students, not just their friends. This opens up the focus in discussion and interaction that I believe is so valuable for students.
As students "search" for the answers, I circulate the room, listening to the conversations, refocusing those who may drift off task, and pointing the more timid students at those who will have the answers they seek.
Once ten minutes has run out, I bring the students back to focus, and we spend some time discussing what they came up with. I start taking volunteers, to gauge who in the class are the "talkative" ones, but I also call on students, partially to associated names, faces, and seats, and partially to let everyone know they have a voice and I will be asking to hear them.
We wrap up the first day of class with a question that demonstrates to the students that we will be addressing the "Big" ideas this year: philosophy and religion, personal belief and society, and how these concepts craft personal identity. Copied on the back of the scavenger hunt is a brainstorm prompt:
"How was the world created? In a complete paragraph, please explain your personal belief into the creation of the Earth (or universe). In addition, please list as many other stories you know about the creation of the world, with a short explanation next to each."
This prompt ties directly into our first literature unit, in which students read and explore Native American creation narratives. It serves as a pre-reading question or anticipation activity for the myths students will be reading, and the creation narrative they will be writing.
Students are given the last ten minutes of class to plan a clear and coherent paragraph expressing their views (W.9-10.4). This is the first of many journal reflections students will write routinely in class (W.9-10.10), As they write, I again circulate the classroom, keeping tabs on paragraph structure, organization, and (to be honest) neatness of handwriting. This, coupled with reading these prompts and providing feedback, gives me a sample of students' writing and lets me gauge what I need to teach and re-teach in a year.
Students are asked to prep and write until time runs out, finishing for homework.