Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a great team that presented a workshop called "The First Six Weeks" through the VT Higher Education Collaboration. The workshop focused on how teachers can use what we know about the brain, mind, and learning to re-design the first six weeks of their school year. As the high school math teacher on the team, I presented a ninety-minute segment on how to incorporate brain-based strategies to establish a strong classroom community from day one.
After completing the workshop, the director of the TASS program (part of VTHEC) recommended I keep a journal for the first six weeks of school to share with workshop participants. Being an avid "lurker" on the Math Blogosphere, I decided to give blogging a shot myself. First and foremost, this will be a space in which I can reflect on my teaching and my students learning. Perhaps it can also be a resource for those who attended "The First Six Weeks", provide insight for next year's presentation, and who knows, maybe I'll get on the Math Blogosphere radar at some point and other math teachers can extend my quest for exploring changes in teaching and learning mathematics.
Here's my plan for day one in Algebra I, as outlined at the workshop:
The very first thing I will do in my Algebra class on day one is an Algebra I Questionnaire based on CalcDave's Calculus Questionnaire.
After having the students complete the questionnaire on their own, I will have students display their answers using a document camera. We will discuss similarities and differences between their responses and talk about how students interpreted the questions differently. Through the survey and the sharing of work, we will all begin to get to know each other, I will begin to see some of students' previous math knowledge, and I will get a sense of their mindsets about themselves as mathematicians.
Next, we will dive in to a Dan Meyer problem on rates. Through this problem, students will get a review on how to work with rates in a way that is accessible to all. As a class, we will generate a question about the image, students will make predictions about the outcome, and then show work to prove their predictions correct or incorrect.
My overall goal on the first day of school is to begin to establish a community of mathematicians. I rarely lecture for more than twenty minutes, so why should I spend our first class together talking at them about rules and regulations?
I have two fifth mod Algebra I classes this year (that's ninth graders at the end of every day), which should be quite the challenge despite my previous eight years of practice. Hopefully day one goes as well in reality as it's going in my head right now. Stay tuned for reflections on the actual first day of Algebra I.