As students enter the room on the first day of school, I have folded index cards with their names placed on the tables where they are to be seated. I chose this idea after reading the first day of another Master Teacher, Merrie Rampy. I start the year with students seated in alphabetical order, which helps me to learn names quickly. After a week or two, I move students into homogeneous groups according to their performance on the topic being studied at that time. These groupings are sometimes based on homework grades, formative assessments, or even observations. I keep the index cards separated by class, with a rubber band around them. This allows me to change the seating chart quickly at any time by placing the index cards on the tables before students enter the room on any day.
I allow students about 10 minutes to complete today's Warm Up. Students are to write about the poster board image I have on the wall. It is an image of the street in front of the school, named First Street, and it has a problem stated that I want students to solve later in this unit. The problem is:
What is the traffic flow on First Street? Use what we have learned in this unit to support your answers and reasoning mathematically.
I do not want them to solve the problem today, but instead explain the questions about the eight Mathematical Practices that I have surrounding the image. I have provided an example of two of the Math Practices posted, MP3 and MP7. In the Warm Up, I have provided eight boxes in a graphic organizer for students to write comments and draw pictures. (This is my second year to post a problem to solve with the eight Mathematical Practices to try to provide students context for understanding.)
The purpose of this Warm Up is to check students prior knowledge of the eight Mathematical Practices. At the end of this lesson, I want students to not only get a clear picture of the 8 Mathematical Practices, but be able to explain how the practices look in a math classroom.
After students complete the Warm Up, I have each table introduce themselves to their partner(s) and share their thoughts. I want students to learn the importance of partners early in the year. Then, as a class we move to the next activity called Questions Under the Desk.
I use the activity, Questions Under the Desk, to engage students in discussing the eight Mathematical Practices. As well as allowing students to develop a class community by creating rules and norms for the year.
I place one card under each table before class starts and have students remove the card from under the table at this time. Each pair(s) of students read the question quietly, and discuss their answers at their table for about 3 minutes. I randomly call out a number between one and fifteen, and ask the table with that number to read the question. Then I ask the table to share their responses. Before sharing, I have partner(s) introduce each other to the class to help learn names. The questions help keep the discussion moving about the Math Practices, the rules, and the norms of the classroom depending on the question.
I have poster paper at the front of the room, and I post responses during the discussion. The board may also be used. I also place students names next to the comments if possible to show participation. I make sure all students answers are valued.
After school on the first day, I will combine students responses from different classes. I will create two posters with the combined answers that I post on the wall on the second day of school. One poster of rules and norms, and the Mathematical Practices described in students words and pictures.
Starting the students the first day with writing and speaking about Mathematics shows students my expectations for the year. I use today's Exit Slip as a quick way to gain knowledge about my new students for the year. I announce that this writing prompt is for my knowledge only, and will not be shared with the class.
In my class, I expect several students will state that they are bad at math. I have to begin building their confidence early in the year, so I want to know who these students are. Ultimately, I will support their growth by valuing all students, but I believe there is a strong connection between skills and confidence, so I want to know who needs support with skills from the onset of the year.