First Day! Welcome to an EXCITING Journey!

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SWBAT take an active role in shaping the culture of the classroom and learn about the value of the math practice standards.

Big Idea

With riddles, funny interviews, mission statements and slogans, this culture building unit helps get the year off to an exciting start!

Opening Riddle

15 minutes


We are going to start the year HOW?

NOTE:   I explain in my video Narrative, A REALLY COOL way to set the tone!, how this first day lesson works for me. However, I recognize that this riddle may not be suitable for everyone so I have provided some Alternative (lateral thinking) riddles and in the lesson resources.

Riddle:  There is a man lying dead in a phone booth.  Both of his wrists are slit.  There is a fishing pole inside of the phone booth with the man.  HOW DID HE DIE?

Only 1 Requirement:  You can only ask me YES/NO questions.


Note:  As you call on students as they ask the yes/no questions, have them state thier name so that you can begin to learn.  It is much more benefitial than reading down an alphabetical list because it personalizes the experiece!  You will certainly have something to remember the students by as you try to learn names.  

Motivation for Class Norms/Rules

15 minutes

Aside from demonstrating “grappling with the complexity of mathematics”, problem solving, collaboration and creative thinking, the riddle activity helps to motivate the need for classroom norms and expectations.  During this time, I like to highlight the things that the students did well in their first 15 minutes of class (or however long it takes to compete the riddle).  For example, it is highly unlikely that the students called each other out or said things like “that’s a dumb question” to one of their peers during the riddle.  I provide positive reinforcement of this fact because it models an expectation that MUST be present in an effective working environment – mutual respect.  Throughout the course of the year we are going to engage in math problems and concepts that are essentially “riddles” that we must all figure out together.  Occasionally, a suggestion or attempt that turns out to be incorrect can help us just as much as one that does!  For this reason, I note to the students that I DEMAND that they respect their peers… and I hope to EARN their respect as the year progresses.

*I make sure not to “demand” that the students respect me personally, as research indicates that this turns-off many students (particularly from broken families).   THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT I LET THE STUDENTS WALK ALL OVER ME!  It is just an important approach in the recipe for building relationships and making the students feel comfortable in the classroom – especially when most students DREAD seeing math on their class schedule!  Want to minimize classroom management issues?  EARN the students respect, rather than DEMAND it.  In fact, when this is the case the students will often police themselves!

Following my “mini lecture” connecting the riddle activity to the classroom norm of respect, I ask the students for any other essential elements of a work environment.  Rather than just asking students to rattle off a bunch of responses, I also probe them for follow up details, things that they witnessed during the riddle activity, or positive past experiences that align to their claim.  

Mission Statement and Slogan Activity

15 minutes

As we close our first day together, I group the students in groups of 4-5 (simply by who is sitting around them) and assign one final task.  The hallmarks of many good businesses are powerful mission statements and/or catchy slogans.  I provide the students with a few examples shown in the PowerPoint slides attached as a resource in this lesson.  

After playfully having the students guess the slogans on the slides, I send them out to create mission statements and slogans of their own; which we will later vote on one to adopt for our class.  It won’t take long for the creative juices to start flowing! 


“We’re Mathically-Delicious!”              (based off of Lucky Charms “Magically Delicious” slogan)

“So easy 2nd Period could do it.”         (based off Geico’s “So easy a caveman could do it” slogan)

"Grab life by the lines."                      (based off Dodge Ram's "Grab life by the horns" slogan)      

Once each group of students has completed their slogan selection, they should also work on writing a 2-4 sentence mission statement for the class this year.


As the class, ends I collect the mission statements and review them before selecting the top three (that I choose) to be voted on tomorrow to select the best in class.  This slogan will be printed with a corresponding picture/logo of the aligning business slogan.  The mission statement will also be printed and signed by all students in the class.  I laminate both documents and post them on the wall outside of my classroom as evidence of a strong classroom culture.  The students see it every day before they enter, and I occasionally reference the slogans when I get excited in class - - “So easy second period could do it!”