Sunday, August 5, 2012

First Day

I've enjoyed seeing everyone posting lately about their first day of school ideas.  The first day definitely sets a tone for the year.  I think that a teacher's first day activities can be quite reflective of what they value and can give a very good idea of what the year will be like.  Some people jump right in and start doing math, some do icebreakers, some opt for other games, and some start right away with class expectations.

I have used the same exact first day activity every year so far.  During my new teacher training we learned that we shouldn't start with rules and stuff on the first day.  Now I don't think that this is necessarily the "right" thing to do, but it is something that stuck with me.

I remember stressing out SO much over the first day that first year.  I wanted to find the perfect thing to do and I didn't really know what kids would like or whether they would think whatever I came up with was lame or boring.  In hindsight, I stressed out over it way too much.  I finally came across this game the night before school started.  It involves playing cards so the morning of my very first day I had to try to hunt down as many sets of cards I could find (which happened to be miniature Snoopy, Mickey & Winnie the Pooh cards that I still use).

When the kids walk in the desks are all in tables and they can sit wherever they want.  If necessary I will even out the tables a bit before we begin.  The name of the game is 31-derful.  I think that this might actually be a solitaire type game, but I had never heard of it.





The kids are allowed to look through the deck and choose whatever cards they want.  I go over the rules using the slides above, but I offer no suggestion on strategy because I want to see what they do.  The groups that put some forethought into it and use a strategy are inevitably more successful.  Kids that go one card at a time will usually end up with one empty spot where no card will fit.  This will then send them backwards to try to adjust.

In my honors class whichever group finishes first earns a HW/extra credit pass for each person (in these classes usually everyone finishes so I do the first group to add some competition).  In my regular classes I will usually give passes out to any group that finishes.

I like this for the first day because it sets a very low key vibe, which is completely me.  They can come in and sit wherever they want, I'm not lecturing for the period, and they get to chat with friends a little bit as they are engaged in some math work that definitely requires thinking.  As they work I walk around and float in and out of groups and chat a little about what is/isn't working.  Sometimes they get totally off track and we laugh as they decide to just start all over.  Giving up isn't an option.  Hard work is rewarding.  All of this actually sums up my class in general pretty well.

The other part, which I'm willing to admit, is that this makes for an easy first day for me which I need.  There's enough going on the first day as is and I just don't want to have to worry about making copies and talking about my class for five periods which is exhausting (I hate rule/expectation/syllabus day).  By doing this, all I need to worry about is explaining the activity and getting my cards off the shelf.  Simple.

So does anyone have a first day activity that you think sums up what your class is like?

59 comments:

  1. Great activity - thanks for sharing! Do you do rules/syllabus stuff on the second day? And how do you teach that stuff - I hate the idea of just rereading chunks of my syllabus to the class?

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    1. Unfortunately I've got nothing interesting..I usually do it on the second or third day or so and just talk. I warn them it's not gonna be all that exciting of a day...

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    2. Syllabus Scavenger Hunt. I have students search for the "high points." We then discuss the little stuff the old fashion way, but it at least adds a bit of fun to an otherwise mundane activity.

      Also, I make it a competition. Gotta have friendly competition!

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    3. I just finished creating my First Days of School PowerPoint with everything for the first week or so of school. All of my rules, expectations, procedures, routines, policies, ice breakers, ISN stuff (a lot of which I borrowed from you Sarah!), and learning style inventories. My plan is to take the week to get through it, breaking it up with ice breakers and activities in between so they don't get bogged down.

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  2. Fabulous...Sarah, you are a genius!

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    1. You are too kind..it's not just me, everyone is a genius ;)

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  3. Interesting! Definitely gonna test it with my colleagues this week!

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    1. Awesome, keep me posted on how it goes :)

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  4. Love your Blog! It's a little above my 3rd Grade student's heads, but love your ideas. I found you through a blog hop and I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Come on over to Groovy in 3rd to claim the award. Congratulations! www.groovyin3rd.blogspot.com

    Your newest follower,
    Tammy
    Groovy in 3rd

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    1. Thanks! I think a lot of the stuff I do can definitely be modified. I'll also be posting about my classroom set up too soon!

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  5. Love this... I am soooo doing this. I usually start out by reading the Math Curse and having the students write their own math curse.

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    1. Awesome! I actually have that book too but I never really came up with a good way to use it, that sounds like a great idea though. I may have to borrow that one :)

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  6. Hi, Sarah,
    I really like this activity and am going to use it with my 5/6 cross-grade level kiddoes the first day I have class. I think it will not only help me sort out math strategies, but personalities, and who might be good working partners. thank you for sharing,

    Another Sarah

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    1. Cool! I'd love to hear how it goes. It definitely gives a good feel for their levels and how well they can use logic and reasoning.

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  7. What a fun game! That would be a fun one to teach and see if the kids could get it to work with other numbers :)

    Definitely bookmarking your blog! Our 7/8 math team is diving into notebooks this year and we need all the ideas we can get!

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    1. That's such a good idea!! I never thought to use different numbers. If you try that please let me know how it goes.

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  8. I like using 4 fours...you must use all 4 fours with any math symbol to get the whole numbers 1-10.

    Ex: (4+4)/4 + 4 =6

    You get to talk about order of operations right away...once you do 2 or three with the class, they can work in groups to get the rest

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    1. Yes I love this too, I don't use on the first day but it definitely shows up in the beginning of the year sometime. I have a worksheet that I made awhile ago and I have them go up to 30..it's certainly a challenge.

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    2. Hi Sarah, I love the 31-derful idea and will be using it this year! Thanks! I also really like the idea above about using 4's with different operations to get the numbers 1-30. Is that worksheet something you would mind sharing? Thanks!

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  9. Sarah,
    I love this idea and I especially love the slides you designed- super cute! Can I steal your presentation?

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    1. Of course, steal away! I think the pictures should be big enough to take from here, but if not let me know and I can send them to you.

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    2. I was wondering if you had an actual powerpoint rather than just the pictures?

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  10. Hi Sarah, I've been loving your blog and all the great ideas you share! Today was the first day of school and I used this game with my 9th grade algebra and honors geometry students. They were definitely engaged and I felt like I got sense already of their personalities in a group setting and of who works well together. But a lot of my algebra students didn't finish. I'm left feeling a bit unsettled. Did I just set my students up on the first day to feel failure in the math classroom? Are there some words that you add at the end of the class period to combat this feeling? What are your thoughts?

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    1. Oh no worries, I always have kids that don't finish. I just tell them that we'll definitely do this again sometime. Just save it and bring it back someday where you have some time to fill. They should be excited to have another go at it if they didn't get to finish the first time. Maybe next time, start by having the groups that did finish share their strategy (if they had one) to give the other kids a nudge in the right direction.

      If you come back to it, instead of failure it can convey the idea that we're not always successful the first time..sometimes we just need to keep working at something until we get it :)

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  11. Hi Sarah!
    Thank you for this great post! I can't wait to use it in my Algebra classes next week! You mentioned that you also had a worksheet that you used for the four 4's activity that went up to 30. Would you be so kind as to share that? I'd really appreciate it! Thank you for sharing all that you do!

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    1. I would love to hear how it goes when you do it. The four 4's is one that's not in my computer so I'll have to scan it, but I'll try to get it up here soon :)

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  12. What age kids have you done this with? Which age group did it work with best?

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    1. I have done it with 7th and 8th graders...the kids in my honors classes usually have more success with it, but for the most part all the kids have had fun with it. I'm going to try it this year with 9th and 10th grade kids this year.

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  13. I used this game with my grade 10s and 11s today. Thanks for the idea - it was awesome! I only wish I had allowed more time for it. Tomorrow my grade 9s get a shot.

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    1. So glad to hear that you used it! Sometimes I'll have my kids take a picture of their cards and come back to it later if we run out of time.

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  14. I like your idea! I am teaching a course called "The Mathematics of Games and Gambling" at a 4-year college and I plan to use this game as a warm-up idea at some point in the semester. My students have to bring a deck of cards to each class so this would give me a good use for the deck on a day where I might not otherwise use it. I probably won't tell my students that your middle & high school students can all figure it out.

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    1. Oh they definitely don't all figure it out, I'm lucky if there's more than one group that gets it per class! But they all try though :)

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  15. I used this game in my 8th grade classes on the first day of school this week. It was great! They were working together, trying different strategies and didn't want to stop when class was over. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Awesome! Isn't that the best when they don't want to stop??

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  16. I have the students use the last 4 digits of their phone number and they have to get an answer of 1-10 using ANY mathematical operation including exponents, permutations, combinations, square roots...

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  17. It's that time of year again. This activity sounds intriguing. I teach low level 9th and 10th graders. Do you think it would engage them or seem overwhelming and not fun? How much time do you suggest? Thanks for your great ideas!

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  18. Love this! I'm going to use it on our first day (Friday). WAY too early if you ask me! Can you send me the PowerPoint? ErinPetry@kcs.kana.k12.wv.us

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  19. I love this and would like to use it during the first week. One question...do you tell the kids the goal of the game BEFORE they pick their cards? Or do they pick their cards first and THEN you tell them the rules of the game?

    Also, I would like the powerpoint too if you don't mind!! And if you have the 4-4s one also and wouldn't mind sharing, I would like that too.
    cadalton73@gmail.com

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  20. I was just wondering do you go over how the game is played before you let them pick the cards they want from the deck or do you let them pick the cards without knowing the objective of the game? I am going to let my Algebra students play this on Monday for the first day and wanted to make sure I did it in the right order. Are there any tricks to the game or is it just pretty much straight forward? I'm excited for them to play but I knew that would be the one question they asked and I didn't know because I had never heard of the game till I read your blog.

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  21. 31-derful knocked it out of the park during math class today! This is a very challenging game with a low entry threshold.

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  22. Sarah, I'm so glad I had saved your blog post - I'm going to use this for my middle schoolers on our first day of school this year. Can't wait to try it! Thanks for sharing.

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  23. I just attempted this game and was successful at creating my 31-derful matrix. Will definitely use for the first day of class! Yes, it is challenging but this is what my kids need. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. Thanks for the idea! I definitely plan on using this for the students' FIRST day of MY first year this Fall!

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  25. I love your blog. I am a science teacher with 30 years experience and have a variation for science. I write out several different one-sentence card game rules on index cards. I let students walk in on the first day and have them sit in groups of 2, 3, or 4 (depends upon class size). Each group gets a deck of cards and deals them all evenly. One person draws a "rule card" from me and discards a card. The other people go in turn, putting down a card. The person who knows the rule says "yes" or "no", depending if the card follows the rule. A person keeps trying cards until he/she gets a "yes". Students begin to try to guess the rule and each keeps trying cards until it is figured out. They have just used the scientific method to solve a problem. Game rules should vary in difficulty. Examples include: "Alternate red and black." "Discard hearts, diamonds, clubs, spades in that order." "Subtract 2 from the discarded card and also alternate red and black." Kids will want to keep getting new rule cards at first and then will usually ask if they can make up there own. Talking about problem solving strategies naturally flow from this.

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  27. This sounds like a good idea to kick start the new year. I plan to try it out on Monday.

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  28. I would love to see your back to school power point considering everything here is fantastic!
    If you wouldn't mind sending it to me, that would be great!

    silvano1999@hotmail.com

    Thanks,
    Sil

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    1. Sorry, I don't actually do a back to school PowerPoint

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  29. Does it matter which 25 cards you use?

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    1. They get an entire deck and they choose the cards to use

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  30. Hi! I was wondering how many students you put in each group and about how long you give students for the game? Thanks!

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    1. It really depends on your classes. The higher the kids the less I'd put in a group. My ideal group for most things is usually around 3. The time also depends on your kids. I've had honors kids get in within like 10-15 minutes and I've also had kids work for 40 and not finish. I don't particularly mind if they don't finish though, it's more about the challenge.

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  31. Great first day of school activity Sarah, thanks for sharing! Last year I stole an activity from an Ian Jukes workshop called the Marshmallow Challenge. I put the kids in groups of 4 and gave them each a marshmallow, 20 uncooked spaghetti noodles, one yard of tape, and one yard of string. They had 18 minutes to work together to build the tallest freestanding structure and the marshmallow had to be on top of the structure. Went very well and most of my kids were engaged.

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    1. This sounds like an interesting idea! What grade level did this work for? Did you do this on the first day? If so, do you at least have the students introduce themselves to you or do you just want around getting them to know them? Sorry for all of the questions.

      I love the 31-derful idea except I am teaching 6 and 7 grade this year, and from my understanding they are very low so I do not think they will get it.

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  32. Can you use any other number besides 31?

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  33. Is it possible for you to email the powerpoint presentation for the first day of class??

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  34. Is it possible for you to email the powerpoint presentation for the first day of class??

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  35. I teach at a high-school level vocational school. I used this on my first day of class this morning. It was a great opener that had a low level of ability but a high level of strategy. I've only used it in 2 classes so far. Nobody got it but I told them to go home with the idea. If they get it at home, take a picture and I would give them credit. They were definitely all engaged. But nobody used the strategy that I used to get it. GREAT

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