August 5, 2011

Best First Week Ever

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?

39 comments:

sara said...

1. I use sticks all the time in my class, but I love your idea of having the student make their own! I'm so glad I haven't made the sticks yet, so now I can have the students make theirs instead! Thank you!

2. I do Biopoems with my students during the first week, too, and they really enjoy it--such a fun, meaningful way to start the year off "write"! :)

3. You've totally inspired me to write a post like this of what I plan to do during the first week. Thank you so much for sharing!

Frugalteacher said...

Nice Blog! I have been checking into KidBlogs.org for my students this year. The blogs are safe and they don't need an email to login. You can also moderate comments before they post. You started school early! Where are you? I'm in TX and we don't start until 8/22.

Linda Dunnavant said...

Sara, I can't wait to read your post about what you'll be doing during the first week. I know you will give me some great ideas! I just stopped by your blog to become a follower and added you to my sidebar!

Frugalteacher, Thanks for stopping by! I am thinking about using Kidblogs too. I think I'm going to wait and survey my students to see who has internet at home before making any decisions. I don't know about you, but we only have 2 computers students can use in the classroom. I'm in AL and we actually don't start until the 15th, but our Meet and Greet is this Thursday and I like to have everything ready by then. Also, I just went to your blog, and I love it! Thanks for sharing ideas about how we can save $!! I just followed your blog and added you to my sidebar!

5th grade fun said...

Hi! As a first year 5th grade science teacher, I would LOVE to get a peek of the Where did the Water Go? lesson or another other amazing science lessons :) Any chance I can beg you to email it to me? 3kara.nance@gmail.com

Thanks :)

Linda Dunnavant said...

Kara, I just sent you an email! :)

Runde's Room said...

Great ideas for the first week of school! I just found your blog and am looking forward to reading more this year. I teach grade 5/6 and am just about to start my eleventh year.

Jen
Runde's Room

Linda Dunnavant said...

Thanks Jen! That's a huge compliment coming from you. I love your blog!

hatchellds said...

GREAT ideas for the first week... for the first time, I kinda miss it....

Brooke.Davis said...

I would love to get the "Where did the water go" lesson as well. I am a 2nd year 5th grade Science teacher. I just found this blog and I am obsessed. I love reading all your post!

brooke.davis@stanlycountyschools.org

Linda Dunnavant said...

Hi Brooke! I just sent you an email. :)

Linda Dunnavant said...

Thanks DeeDee! I know your students miss you so much after being with you for two years. Let's talk soon. I hope you and Kris are doing well!

sara said...

How did the interviewing a classmate activity go for you? Assuming you've already done it with the students, that is.. :)

Linda Dunnavant said...

It went really well actually! They loved brainstorming questions to ask each other. I had them write up their interview into a paragraph to present to the class. They loved doing this, and it was a great chance for me to informally assess their reading fluency. I think I'll definitely do this again in the future!

Gayle said...

I'd love to see the "Where did the water go" lesson too, if you could send it along! (GaylemCampbell@gmail.com) I'm a new fifth grade teacher, and would love any help I can get. Thanks!!

First Time @Fifth Grade said...

Some great ideas! I am so jealous you can do science. I am not teaching it this year. I taught it five years ago and LOVED during a review of the scientific method making salad dressings then trying each others with carrots etc.

Linda Dunnavant said...

Sounds like fun! What all do you do with the dressings? I want to know more! :)

Anonymous said...

I have been teaching a while and I would love to use your "Where did the water go" lesson. I need something new and fresh/fun!!! Thanks! (mtallman@swcrk.org)

Shanna said...

I'd love to see the where did the water go lesson! I'm an add on 5th grade teacher...starting my class on Monday! shanna.miller15@gmail.com

(and any & all suggestions you have... please send them my way!) I'm a first year teacher!

Ivanov said...

Hi

I like this post:

You create good material for community.

Please keep posting.

Let me introduce other material that may be good for net community.

Source: Science teacher interview questions

Best rgs
Peter

Unknown said...

I just discovered your blog. I will be teaching 5th grade science starting in August. I have taught 1-3 grades. I would love to hear more about the "where did the water go" lesson. Mfrog317@Aol.com

Katelyn said...

I found a blog about paper blogging.

http://www.notesfrommcteach.com/2010/09/learning-to-blog-using-paper.html

Maybe that will help! :) I love your blog!!

Tonya said...

I am so glad I found your blog! I am moving to fifth-grade Science/SS from Pre-k! I am very excited but also nervous about the big jump! Of course, I used the "sticks" all the time in PRE-K! We called them "who sticks" and they went in the "who can"..."Who can tell me what letter apple starts with?"....but I am planning to use your idea of letting the students make their own on the first day. I also like the idea of having students interview each other.

Since I am also going to be teaching science, could you send me the "Where did the water go?" lesson as well? Thanks in advance! kmgregory@windstream.net

Katelyn said...

I am trying to get a handle on the start of my school year as a first year teacher in fit grade. I too would love a copy of "where did the water go?" sounds like a great way to get students excited about science. I appreciate everything you have posted!

Katelyn.e.shenton@gmail.com

Linda Dunnavant said...

Katelyn and Tonya,

I just sent you an email. Thanks for stopping by!

Linda :)

Jennifer Dixon said...

I love your ideas. This past year I found a Scholastic activity that had my students write letters to themselves and seal the letters inside envelopes. On the last day of school the students opened their letters. They were so excited to read what they had written.

I would love to see the Where did the water go? lab. Could you send it to me? My email address is jennjenndixon@gmail.com. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Linda,
I love your links to the poster makers and the digital technology projects. So glad I came across your blog! Would you also mind sending me the Where did the Water Go? lab as well? My e-mail is donna_sandt@yahoo.com.

Thank you! -Donna

slindgren said...

These are all such great ideas! I am a 5th grade teacher as well here in Maine! I use some of the same first day strategies, but I love the idea of having the students decorate their own popsicle sticks. I have my kids interview each other as well, but at the end they put their findings in a PowerPoint presentation so it gives them a taste of technology, that way, when we get into research projects, that is method of presentation they can choose. I would love to see the Where did the water go? lab as well. The water cycle and watersheds are part of curriculum. (slindgren314@msn.com)

I am so glad that I found your blog!

Stacy said...

I would also love to get the Where did the water go Lesson....this will be my first year teaching 5/6th grade science and want something interesting to do the first week, since I've already taught these kids before, there isn't much getting to know them. seaglin@hdisd.net

Thank you!
Stacy

Anonymous said...

I am a first year 4th grade teacher. I love your ideas!!!! Could you please send me the water lesson as well? My email address is kpollard@aum.edu......Thanks so much!!!

Betty B. said...

I am going into my second year teaching (Science and S.S.) and I am mulling over what and how I should plan my student's first few days, so it was a breath of fesh air when I came across your blog. THANK YOU! Could you also send me the lesson? Berryb1207@yahoo.com

Thank you

Linda Dunnavant said...

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for your interest in the "Where did the water go?" lesson! I have now posted the lesson. Let me know how it goes if you try it with your students!

Anonymous said...

I'd love a copy of. "where did the water go?" Thanks! Cheryl1665@live.com

Anonymous said...

I am interested in a copy of "Where did the water go?" as well! If you're willing to share my address is jpetersen@dsdmail.net I'm always looking for fun and interesting ways to teach and enjoy learning! Your webpage is wonderful!

Schoena said...

I am planning several of the same things you are for the first day (isn't that funny how we all tend to think the same way). The only things I will add is giving students the opportunity to look through the classroom library books and make a list of books they are interested in reading throughout the year. Then we will play a game of Musical Books. It is like Musical chairs, except when the music is turned off- all students have to sit down and pick up the book that is underneath their chair. They will read anywhere in the book for 2-3 minutes before the music starts again and they have to find a new seat. No one gets out in the this game. The point of it is to get a sneak peak in reading some books that students might not ever give a chance to.

Anonymous said...

I'm loving your blog! Great ideas for the first week. I can't wait to have my students set up our class library. I always spend so much time doing it at the beginning of the year! I'm interested in your "where did the water go?" lesson. Would it be possible to get a copy? Thanks.
mainelylori@aol.com

Mrs. Castro said...

Hi Linda!
I am so excited I found this post! I've just switched from 1/2 to 5th grade (dual language). Thanks for sharing how to start the year right with 5th graders. I haven't updated my blog yet, but I will so hopefully we can exchange ideas!
Laura
Mrs. Castro's Class

dancen mamma said...

Today was my first day teaching 5th grade and somethings didn't go as well as I had planned. So I got on pinterest and found this blog. So many great ideas. I am so excited for tomorrow. Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions.

Sballplayer014 said...

Hello, I stumbled across your blog while searching for first week of school idea's. I am moving from 3rd to 5th grade and would love a copy of your, Where's the water?" lesson.
Thanks for the great idea's.
sballplayer014@gmail.com

Cath Leach said...

Great ideas. I have taught primary/special education/library for 30 years, but grade five is new ground for me, and I find your ideas inspiring and helpful. Thank you.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...