Monday, August 27, 2007

It begins!

Ok, I think I just laminated more things in the last three days than I have previously in my whole life. I've got up the class norms (1. Show respect to yourself, each other, and the class. 2. Always focus on learning math. 3. Try hard and take risks.) I've got up the 8 step process for solving problems with Singapore bar modeling. I've got up the signs for the Readiness Check (Binder and homework out; pencils sharpened; backpack at the back of the room; working on the Do Now) and I made the Readiness Checkers - an idea I stole not 5 hours ago. Each time the student completes all the readiness tasks by the bell, they receive a sticker on their grid of 9 spaces (3 weeks). When the grid is completed, it turns magically into a coveted get-out-of-homework pass. I've got up the giant sign with the answers to "Why should I learn math?" (see previous post) which took the help of two other teachers and 4 boys from the soccer team to color in. Oh yeah, and three kids from the robotics team to laminate it and cut it out. I've got the homework checkers laminated and up on the wall; each day, students receive a check mark or an X depending on whether they completed their homework or not. This system is a good way for them to continually be reminded of the effort they are (or are not) putting in. Plus, parents love to see them when they come visit. On parents' night, the homework checkers are the single biggest draw (as they are easy to understand and give an immediate sense of parental satisfaction or dismay). My blank journals are unpacked and stored on the shelves, labeled by period number. I came up with a new idea today - the "Days since the last referral" wall. Each class period has a sign up, with a referral stapled next to it on the bulletin board. The signs are laminated, so I can put a check mark each day that no one in the class gets a referral (or I can rip it down dramatically when someone does!). If they reach 10 days with no one getting a referral (that quite a lot for a low-skilled freshman class), there will be some sort of group reward. There are famous mathematicians on the walls smiling smugly over the room. I've got up the number line on one wall and the place value chart on another wall and a magic eye calendar on the back wall. I've got up a map of the US and another of the world. These are great to have up in general because students don't know where places are or how big they are relative to others. I always think back to my Algebra 1 student (who is now safely graduated) who, in a scientific notation lesson busted out with "Alaska? What's Alaska?". On the world map, I can show them where Singapore is. The manipulatives are shelved neatly and the copies for tomorrow's lesson are all made and laid out on the desk. I helped the other teachers remaining here at this ridiculous hour move stuff and get stuff prepared. And I just finished making my seating charts now that the class rosters have finally been sent out. You have to be a teacher to really understand how much goes into preparing for a new year...

I'm excited about my classes - both my single Algebra 2 class and all my little freshmen that will be in Numeracy. Going into my 7th year of teaching, I finally don't feel nervous because I know how most things are going to play out and I feel prepared. But last year I had a light schedule because I was working on another project for the school part time; this year, I have the 5 classes plus SSR and Homeroom, so I'm going to have to fight to get my teacher legs back. It's time to go home, get some sleep, wake up, pack lunch, and dive in to the deep end. I think I'll be holding by breath till Thanksgiving.


Jackie Ballarini said...


Saying it sounds like you're well prepared is an understatement! Wishing you a great first day and a productive year.

Dan Wekselgreene said...

Thanks, and same wishes to you.

In terms of preparation, the number of schoolwide systems that we have developed is also a huge help in making this work.