How do we handle the First Day of School? The kids are excited to see their friends, their favorite teachers from last year, and just the sheer novelty of the new School Year. They may have been too excited to even eat breakfast. Who knows how much sleep they’ve gotten over the past month? Were they away all Summer at camp? What physical changes have they experienced? Has their family structure changed at all? Where are they at?
The mind of a child is a busy place. All kinds of thoughts, pressures, feelings, and stuff to process is whirling around in there. The school-day habits they had in June are gone; even the “good” students need to readjust to the structure and cognitive demands of being back in school. Reading, writing, and math skills, as well as basic behavior in a structured group setting, all need to be refreshed.
Teachers are focused on establishing classroom procedure, because if it isn’t done in the first week, it will be an issue for the entire year. This means: how do we listen actively? how do we respect our classmates? how do we line up for fire drills? how do we change classes? how do we handle ourselves in the hallway? when do we go to the bathroom? what do we do when we first arrive in class? how do we handle classroom distractions? what supplies do we need for class?
This can be addressed in the context of a classroom activity. For Homeroom, that will be a 4X6 blank index card, with their name colorfully applied (by them) on the one side, and three or four interesting questions. What is your favorite food? If you had a million $, what would you do? What is Science? What is the biggest problem facing the planet? And then we play a “guess who?” game by putting the cards upside down and trying to guess who would build a racing car with their million $.
In Science, that will be the “Observation v. Inference” game, using the classroom as our habitat, as well as some interesting demonstrations. Levitating soap bubbles on a cloud of CO2 gas; the imploding can; burning steel wool with a 9-volt battery; floating an ice cube in a beaker of water and a beaker of alcohol. We can even roll the use of notebooks into this. The Nature of Science will occupy our first week. In Math, we’ll play some games based on last year’s concepts, and do some math fact racing. I’m saving the M&M Math for the day before Thanksgiving.
At the start of my fourth year of teaching, and my second year in this school, my level of confidence is several orders of magnitude greater than it was last year. I have the same team, the same curriculum, I’m fresh off an excellent pedagogy course, and I know all the kids coming up from 7th Grade. This year will not be simple, and it certainly will not be easy, but a number of factors that add frictional drag are gone.