The first week of school is such a critical time. I want to make sure that the activities and lessons I choose are ones that are going to build a community of learners where students feel safe, comfortable, and unafraid to take risks. I love reading about what other teachers have planned for the first week of school, so I thought I would share what I'm planning too!
Interviewing and Introducing a Classmate - Some of my worst memories of school are from having to stand up and think of something clever to say about myself on the first day of school. I especially hated the game where you had to come up with an adjective to describe yourself that starts with the first letter of your name. You try thinking of a word that starts with L that describes Linda! Ugh. Even though I don't want to humiliate my students, I still want to give them a chance to speak in front of everyone so that we can learn more about each other. My plan is to let students brainstorm questions they'd like to ask each other, and then let pairs of students interview each other. The students will share the information they learned about their classmate in front of the class. This doesn't seems nearly as threatening to me as the adjective game or any of those other silly icebreakers. Here is a lesson plan for this activity from Scholastic.
Organizing our Classroom Library - Right now my classroom library is a random collection of books in mismatched containers. I want to let the students come up with a plan for organizing our books. Hopefully, this will help the students feel ownership and give them some control in the classroom. Also, fifth graders have been known to come up with ideas that I would have never dreamed of!
Equity Sticks - We do these every year, but I wanted to include them because I think they're a great tool. Every year on the first day we give students a big popsicle stick and have them write their names on them. They can decorate them any way they want. We keep these sticks in a cup and use them to call on random students, form random groups... the list goes on and on. I'm thinking this year I'm going to have students color one end of their sticks so that I can just turn the sticks over in the cup after I've used them. Here is a great article about the use of equity sticks. I realize "equity sticks" is a ridiculous name. They're just popsicle sticks and you can call them whatever you want!
Biopoems - This is a fun activity that I have done with my class for the past two years. Students follow a pattern to write a poem about themselves. I find it to be an easy, non-threatening, but meaningful assignment. We usually put their poems in a class book of poetry. Students love to come back and look at these! Laura Candler has a great section about how to create biopoems on her website.
Fun Science Labs - I don't know if I have mentioned this, but I teach with one of the most amazing science teachers in the world. She has a lesson called "Where did the water go?" that we always do on the first day of school. It gets everyone excited for the year of science ahead. I'll have to blog about this lesson later, just in case any of my future students are reading. I don't want to give away anything! We also spend the first week setting up our science notebooks. UPDATE- click here for the "Where did the water go?" lesson!
Blogging on Paper - I wish I could remember where I read about this idea. I really do. I found this blog post about this topic, but honestly, this isn't where I got the idea from. It is a good post, however, and you should check it out! I am not sure if my students are going to have their own blogs this year, or if they're just going to be commenting. Either way, this is a great exercise to get students thinking about blogging etiquette as well as what blogging is and why it is important.
Begin Writer's Workshop - I am determined this year. I am not going to think about the fact that writing is not tested anymore. I get so caught up in the world of reading and science (which ARE tested big time), that I tend to put writing on the back burner. When I think of the skills that my students will need when they leave me, I can't think of anything more important than writing. (Well, maybe reading is more important, but aren't they inextricably linked?)
I have been reading Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner this summer, and it has opened my eyes to how I should be teaching writing. I am excited to have students decorate their bright and shiny writer's notebooks. I am also excited to see the great writing that will (hopefully) unfold when I get out of the way and give my students time to write.
What are you planning for the first week of school?