I know it's still summer, but some of my colleagues here in Oklahoma just finished three weeks of full-time professional development with the Oklahoma Writing Project and their enthusiasm has inspired me to start thinking about the new year and how to start the first days of school with student-centered teaching that will set your learning community's tone for the rest of the year.
Some of the things I have done (and will do) to prepare for this year include:
All that said, I'm writing today because I want to remind you about the first days of school activities I recommend to help you get to know your students so that you can use this information to create student-centered, research-based units that will inspire your reluctant readers and writers.
Last year, I recommended you check out Cult of Pedagogy's icebreakers, and while I still think there is a place for them in the first couple of days (making sure that you're honoring the students in your classes who are introverts and dread talking to people they don't know or being put on the spot), you also need to make sure you're spending some time engaging your students in written or verbal conversations that will help you understand who they are and what they might like to read and write about. My First 5 Days of School Quickwriting prompts can not only help you set the tone for the year, but also help you gain insight into who your students are.
As I mentioned last year, it's important to build positive relationship with your classes from the very beginning, assess their skills, and learn about who they are. So I've developed a few free resources you can sign up for that includes the activities I've created and curated over the years to to help facilitate this process. Not only are these activities classroom-tested, but they are also introverted student/teacher approved! No embarrassing activities or conversations for people who don't like large-group discussions.
Before They Walk In
This activity helps me get to know students (and just as importantly, their names/pronunciations) before they walk in the door. As an introvert who gets to know people better one-on-one or in small groups, this helps me connect with students right from the first moment.
I can remember faces easily, but I'm terrible with names. I'll remember my extroverted kids by day two, but will struggle remembering the names of the shy ones who never say anything for months. So this name card activity helps me put a visual name with a face — along with some details that will help me get to know the student.
You may remember this from a couple of years ago when teachers were designing Bitmoji inspired virtual activities like crazy. I thought this one was worth mentioning again since it will give you a change to both learn about your students interests and also their comfort level with using Google Apps for Education.
This year I've added a student inventory to help you discover the talents, interests, hobbies, and other relevant contexts of your student lives so you can design student-centered lessons and units. I have also included a video tutorial to help you modify the form to suit your needs and school context.
Sound like activities you can use in your classroom? Just register for access to these activities and more!