Start with the End in Mind

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Students will learn the significance of the class syllabus.

Big Idea

The syllabus is an important tool for student success.


5 minutes

The purpose of the warm-up is to serve as a "hook" to initiate interest and engagement from students.  A good warm-up will activate prior knowledge and establish relevance with students.  Using a  LCD projector, I display the daily warm-up on the screen as students enter the classroom.  After the bell rings for the start of class, I begin class by reading the question and asking students to share their responses.  I give ample opportunity for students to participate in the discussion and allow 3-5 students to respond.  Typically, there will be differing opinions and thoughts that arise during this discussion.  If the differing thoughts do not arise, I will encourage dissenting opinions to be verbalized by asking, "Does everyone agree with what's been said?"  The encouraging of diverse thoughts is important because it increases the chance that most opinions will been heard. Those students who are less comfortable speaking will feel represented even if they choose not to add to the discussion, ensuring greater engagement.  Engagement occurs either as speaker or active listener. After hearing a few comments, I lead the students in the direction that I intend for the warm-up. 

For this lesson, the warm-up is:  How easily could you drive from Atlanta to Los Angeles without the use of a navigation system (GPS) or a road map? Why would it be difficult?

I then introduce the term, syllabus an its meaning.  Having established the purpose of a navigation system and the definition of the term syllabus, I ask students to consider how a navigation system is like a syllabus. I solicit and notate comments on the board that connect the two.  

Introduce New Material

15 minutes

I begun the class by establishing the need for a class syllabus for Biology by eliciting student thoughts about how the syllabus is like a GPS. Once students have agreed upon the need for a GPS to get from one point to another (Atlanta to Los Angeles), I then clarify the role of a syllabus for successful navigation through HS Biology.   Having established the purpose of a syllabus, I distribute copies of the syllabus to the students.   I discuss each section of the syllabus and explain to students that the syllabus should be keep as a reference document for the entire year. Be sure to check for understanding at different points during the presentation of the syllabus by asking students specific questions that can only be answered by referencing the syllabus.    For example, "Can you submit late work?" or “What do you do if you miss a test. Check for understanding at different points by asking students questions that pertain to specific information found in the syllabus. Allow students an opportunity to ask questions.


Guided Practice

12 minutes

Guided Practice provides students an opportunity to reinforce concepts taught after you model how the task is to be completed. This thematic organizer displays the main concept in the middle of a circle (The syllabus is an important tool for my success) with lines and boxes connecting the main theme to supporting thoughts. You can display the organizer on a board or LCD projector.  I provide students with their own copies.  After I explain the thematic web and the relationships between the main thought and their own ideas, I introduce a concept called, “Think, Pair, Share”.  I instruct students to first work independently to complete the graphic organizer that summarizes the need for a class syllabus.  I explain that they will be given 5 minutes to complete this task.   I explain that after they complete the organizer on their own, they are to share their responses with their ‘elbow partner” (the person sitting next to them).  They should look for and discuss similarities and differences between their individual responses.  Explain that the “pairing” is a timed activity of 3 minutes. Lastly, I explain that the last part of a “think, pair share” is “sharing”, which involves talking about their responses with the two students  behind or in front of them.  Sharing is a timed activity of 2 minutes.  One minute before the end of each timed period, announce to students that there is one minute remaining.  At the end of the time, ask if there are any students who need more time.  If students raise their hands for more time, give 1-2 minutes more for everyone to finish the task.  At the end of timed tasks, I usually count down and say, “Let’s come back together in 5-4-3-2-1” so that students can end the task gradually and bring their attention back to me.  A student work sample is included.


Independent Practice

10 minutes

Using an LCD projector, provide students instructions on how to complete a Gingerbread Profile and a few sentence frames. This activity occurs after the syllabus review on the first day because I want to convey to students that relationship is as important as academics in the class. Distribute copies of the Gingerbread Man worksheet to each student.


Lesson Close

10 minutes

The closing activity is intended to reinforce key concepts before students are dismissed. Because one of my main objectives from the lesson is to begin establishing relationships with students, I share my Gingerbread Man responses and ask them to share their responses, as well. Even though this a first day activity, I find that most students are comfortable sharing information about themselves using this activity.


3 minutes

Write one 5-sentence paragraph, “Why I like or dislike” science.  Cite specific reasons for your opinion.  There is no right or wrong answer.