It's the first day of the second semester, and I try to start the marking period off right, greeting students at the door and welcoming them, and trying to call the new students by name. While my school retains "full-year" classes for English, there are inevitably students who switch classes for a variety of reasons, particularly the scheduling of their electives. As with the Daily Holidays, I hope to build a sense of community by recognizing the students by name.
At the bell, I welcome the students to "Squirrel Appreciation Day," and quickly poll if any have been on college visits or have older siblings who have told tales of "Campus/Quad Squirrels." I relate a story a friend form college told me, that she once saw a squirrel dragging a wrapped Snickers bar down the street. Given the cleverness and fearlessness of the squirrels at our campus, we simply assumed it had walked into the campus convenience store, paid the clerk, and walked out with its prize.
As noted above, Daily Holidays serve to encourage students to participate and to build a sense of community and trust within the classroom, encouraging students to share their thoughts and participate in a wide range of discussions, build on others' ideas, express their own ideas clearly (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1).--something I note to the students as we transition to the next activity.
In order to get students owning and thinking about their reading, and performing some reflective practice, I ask students to take a ten minutes to think about their out-of-class reading and complete a survey questionnaire on their reading habits. This questionnaire serves as a shorter time frame reflection writing (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10), in which students get accustomed to reflective practice, a focus of this semester's class.
As students respond to the questions, I circulate the room, "checking up" on what they have to say and looking for interesting ideas to encourage them to share. After five to ten minutes of individual writing, I encourage students to share their thoughts on question #2, "Are you reading anything for fun at this time?", as well as #3, #4, and #5.
The focus of today's discussion will be these questions, with students directing and determining how long we spend on these items. By letting students determine the pacing, I can build student ownership in both discussion and the class as a whole. As noted above, students share their thoughts and participate in the discussion, build on others' ideas, express their own ideas clearly (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1).
Throughout the two previous sections of today's lesson, I have stressed to the students the importance of participation, but I also wanted to establish the other "ground rules" for the semester, including the grading scale, late work, and how to contact me outside of school.
As I pass the English II Spring Syllabus out to the students, I start introducing the Facebook page I use to post a summary of each class. As we do not have a standard, school-wide message board system, the class Facebook page provides a forum from which students can download information and check on what the day's assignments were. When I initiated posting assignments on Facebook, it was the primary social media site used by teens. As more students are moving away from Facebook, I also make each assignment and handout available for download on the school's electronic grade book; there is a "Student Access Center."
Posting assignments daily also provides a chance for my own reflective practice, as I look back at the day when I post, and reflect on what did and did not work, adjusting tomorrow's plan as needed.
As mostly a mini-lecture, I read through the syllabus to the students, ensuring they are familiar with the school and classroom rules and procedures, especially to understand how language functions in different classroom contexts and to comprehend as they listen to my presentation (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3).
I chose to present the syllabus verbally and in the form of a handout to ensure that not only would the information be transmitted in multiple ways, but also to head off the inevitable, "I didn't know _____" (rule, grade, policy, etc.)
Given the time needed to go through the syllabus, we end with reviewing it, rather than a typical two-minute warning.