First Day: Goal Setting & Introduction To Earth Science

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SWBAT understand the components of the Earth Science curriculum and the parts of the Regents examination | SWBAT create a personal goal that will guide their learning for the academic year

Big Idea

Students will create personal course goals, hear about important logistical information, and understand how science works in a high-school setting.

Do Now

7 minutes

On the first day, I have students do the same entry procedure they'll repeat every single day the rest of the year. Given that I've taught this particular class of students before, my entry procedure hasn't changed, and they're all generally familiar with how it operates. The steps are pretty straightforward:

  • Everyone enters the room silently and takes out any needed assignments (homework, classwork to review, etc.) that's listed on the board, and starts the 'Do Now' activity
  • There is either (1) a timer displaying the time available or (2) a song playing, during which students know that they have roughly until the completion of the song to complete the 'Do Now'. (Note: As songs don't have countdown timers available, I verbally remind them of the time they have available [i.e. "You have about 1 minute remaining" or "finish up in the next 15 seconds"])
  • During this time, I'm usually doing a variety of things, but at the outset of the year, I usually do nothing but make sure they all perform this procedure perfectly. If there are students who don't, they repeat it until they get it right.


After time is expired, we go over the questions collaboratively (I use a combination of volunteers and cold-calling most of the time), and then I have someone read the class objective aloud. 

As an additional note, I usually have my 'Do Now' start this way for several reasons. I think it:

  • builds consistency and reliability in what students can expect day-to-day 
  • quickly gets their brains activated and thinking about science content in a real way
  • allows everyone to enter the room calmly and silently, especially if they were transitioning from a loud hallway or previous classroom time; and
  • serves as a mini-review and check to check their understanding of previous material

Introduction To the Regents Course & Syllabus

15 minutes

After the first 'Do Now' is complete, everyone is asked to take out the syllabus (attached below), which contains important and essential course information that we go over together. When going over this, we practice a popcorn-like reading strategy involving me calling on random students to pick up where the other student has left off. This holds everyone accountable, engaged, and generally adds a bit of a positive 'zing' to an activity. I periodically stop for questions or to check for understanding around important points, dates, and other information as necessary. 

Introduction to the Regents Exam

10 minutes

This part of the class involves going over the major components and structure of the Regents examination. Luckily, the students have already taken a similar exam the year before (Living Environment, which is a high school level Biology course) and are generally familiar with the requirements, but it's important that they comprehend how the exam itself is structured, as much of what we do in class will either directly mirror or prepare them for some component of success on the exam itself (Note: See reflection in this section on how I provide rationale for the Regents exam for my students).

After learning about the parts of the exam together, I then show them a sample scoring guide (something they're always interested in!) on how the Regents is graded by the state. I do this for several reasons, but one of the major ones is to calm those jittery nerves students often have about high-stakes assessments, and the other is to show them that they have some leeway in getting answers wrong. I want them to start believing they can do it, and showing them what they're up against is a key component of that. 

Goal Setting

20 minutes

In this section, I do something that I do on the first day of every school year - I read the students a letter I wrote them. Historically, I've done this for a few reasons - to communicate my expectations, my hopes, and my goals for the course, but I also feel that it serves as an effective model of what I'm asking students to do next.

I then ask them to compose a similar letter to their future selves, on the days before the Regents exam. I ask them to express their hopes, goals, and fears - to think about what they want to get out of the course, what they hope to learn, and how they expect to accomplish it. Then I ask them to connect this idea to college - how is success in Earth Science going to help them get there? How is it going to prepare them for the next step? What they'll do after they compose these letters is hand them in, and I hand them back a day or so before they take the actual exam and ask them to reflect and see what realizations they've made this year, and how they may (or may not) have met their goals as stated in their letters throughout the year. Ultimately, it's an interesting and powerful way to connect my personal goals to their own, self-created goals, and to provide some continuity between the first and last days of school. 


5 minutes

Similarly to the entry procedure, I always close out class the same way. I ask students to pack up their things, get ready to leave the room, restate any homework (today - it would be to finish the letter and have a parent sign the syllabus, assuming they did not get to finish the letter in class) and usually ask some final summative questions to the tune of "What'd you learn today?" or "Tell me about...". Something to "put a bow" on the end of the day.