As students enter class today, I wait outside the door to greet them and welcome them to class, and I hand them a double-sided document that's one-third of the size of a sheet of letter paper, called "Today in Algebra 1". On this handout is the opener, then a checklist of everything I'd like the kids to accomplish today. The back of the document will be used as today's exit slip.
Even though it's the eighth day of school, this is our first Monday, and the first day of our first full week of class, so today is a chance to continue to set the tone I want to cultivate. In general, one of my main goals for these first few weeks of class is to teach students what to expect in this class: about the role that hard work plays, about the role that staying organized and up to date on projects plays, about the mastery-based grading system. A particular goal today is to allow them to experience the kind of self-directed work period that will gradually grow more common over the course of the year.
The first thing on the handout is today's opener: two more number pattern problems. I give students the first few minutes after the bell to try these two problems and to read the checklist on their own, before moving on to frame the rest of the class. While they work, I try to take two laps around the room, encouraging everyone to get started and to make sure they feel comfortable solving these pattern problems.
There are two class milestones coming up this week. The first quiz is tomorrow, and the first project is due in two days. In order to frame today's class, I draw the attention of my students to today's agenda. The agenda doesn't need to have much on it, because students already have their "Today in Algebra" checklists in hand. I use the agenda to continue to establish a language of growth mindset in the class, writing "Do your best work! Ask questions at your table. Work hard - avoid distractions," as bullet points. I reiterate to the kids that these are keys to success in this class.
I say that the first assessments of the year are happening this week. The first quiz of the year happens tomorrow; it's a series of problems about number patterns. The first project of the year - the Number Trick Project - is due the following day. As I explain this, I hand out this week's homework sheet: Homework Handout Week 3.
I quickly point out that the main homework for the next two nights is to finish the Number Trick Project. Homework for the latter part of the week consists of some work in the textbook and another milestone: the year's first problem set.
The Number Trick Project, Part 3
The third (and final) handout of the day is Part 3 of the Number Trick project, which also serves as a checklist and rubric for what the students will turn in on Wednesday. This is a one-page, two-sided document, with this on the front: The Number Trick Project Part 3, and the project rubric on the back.
Here is how I introduce this handout: Number Trick Project Part 3 Introduction. The rubric has three rows: the first is for Mathematical Practice 2, which has been an important focus of our work so far. The second row is for the learning target "I can interpret expressions that represent a quantity in terms of its context," which is taken from the CCS standard A-SSE.1. The second row of the rubric stops at level 2, because students will have to do more work to demonstrate that they have fully mastered this target; this project gives students the chance to expressions, but not to talk about contextualized quantities.
The last row of the rubric is more symbolic than it is for a grade. I simply use it to let kids know that I'm paying attention to the timeliness and the quality of their work.
The rest of the class is self-directed work time.
As the year goes on, there is more and more work time that will happen in this class. I strongly believe that students learn best when they're grappling with problems and producing work than when they're sitting there listening to me. At this early point in the school year, work time like this is new to this class, and I'm working to set the tone that hard work must happen during times like this. I circulate purposefully, checking in with students, seeing who is on task, trying to make sure that good things are happening.
With 2-3 minutes left in class, I call everyone to attention and tell them to find their checklists from the beginning of class. "On the back," I direct them, "you'll find three quick reflection questions that I'd like you to answer before you leave. I'll take these as you leave the classroom."
I continue in my most earnest voice, because I mean it, and I want them to know it: "This is very important to me, so please take it seriously. I want to know how you're doing in this class, and I take your questions very seriously, so please be honest and tell me how you're doing."
I give everyone until the bell to write their answers, then I stand at the door as they leave, to take these exit tickets.