First Day in a Cooperative Physics Classroom

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Students will be able to understand expectations for this year's physics classroom.

Big Idea

Students meet Physics 1. Physics 1 meet new students.

Introduction Day

10 minutes

I introduce myself and I have students create Name Cards that they will use throughout the week and later on for class jobs. They write their first name in the middle of a large index card. In the upper right corner they write their favorite food; the lower right corner the best thing they did this summer; the upper left corner one thing they are looking forward to this year; the lower left corner two words that describe them.

When they are done, I have them share one thing with the people at their table so they learn something new about each person in their group. This gives both me and my students a chance to learn something new about each other.

Students Meet Physics 1

15 minutes

When students walk in, they pick up the Syllabus on the front table. I talk about the syllabus and what the plan will be for the class throughout the semester as well as day-to-day. Most of the discussion consists of me talking to students and students having an opportunity to ask any questions they have after each section. I talk about each section of the syllabus in order and we discuss general expectations for the classroom, grading policies and the Safety Contract so students know how the class will work. After we have gone through the syllabus and the safety contract, I tell students that they should bring this home and talk about it with their parents before the students and parents sign the form. When the parents and students sign, they agree that the student will adhere to the rules and expectations for the class and lab.

After we discuss the syllabus and the safety contract, we look at my website. I project the website on the screen at the front of the classroom and have students find the site on their Chromebooks. I show students how each unit has a page and how they can find links to resources, homework assignments and exit slips. We also make sure that the website is bookmarked on each of their Chromebooks.

Commonality Charts

25 minutes

In this activity, students use a whiteboard to make a chart of what they have in common with the other members of the groups they are sitting with. I provide a group of 4 students with a 5x5 grid where I ask students to put their names in the first row and first column. I have students put an X in the boxes where both names are listed for the same student. The commonality chart template would look like this Commonality Chart. Then I have the students go column by column to find similarities between the two students for each corresponding box. This is a Student Commonality Chart.

After the students are finished, I have each table get up and present their chart. I have each student share at least two commonalities they have with group members to the class. This is their first opportunity to present in front of the class since we will be doing a lot of whiteboarding and presenting in front of class throughout the course.

For me, this activity is great to start to get to know my students better. For my students, this helps them to get to know each other a little better and start getting more comfortable talking in front of the whole class. 

Looks Like, Sounds Like Charts

30 minutes

The Looks Like, Sounds Like charts are a Cooperative Learning technique called T-charting from Johnson and Johnson. I use this in my class to chart social skills and expectations so students know exactly what we should see and hear when it comes to those behaviors. 

This year our school is implementing College and Career Readiness Scales so that students will have checkpoints where they are evaluated on skills in the following categories: Respect, Collaboration, Time Management, and Habits of Success. 

To begin the activity, each of the four categories from the College and Career Readiness Scales has two groups that come up with what they think each skill would look like and sound like. To create a Looks Like, Sounds Like chart, students make a T-chart which is a two-column table that is titled Looks Like on the left and Sounds Like on the right.

For example, if a group was doing Respect, they may say it looks like raising your hand, keeping your hands to yourself, and making eye contact with others. For sounds like they may say using appropriate language, encouraging others, and quiet when others are speaking. I give students about 5 minutes to come up with their own list with their group. 

After each group comes up with a list I have them collaborate with the other group that has the same category and combine to make one big list. After they combine their lists, they post the large charts on the board and we discuss them as a class and see if anyone else (from other groups) has anything to add. 

At the end of the day we will have four Looks Like, Sounds Like charts that will help students to understand how each behavior should be seen and heard in the classroom.