Hopefully, my challenge pressed you to create a new and unique First Day routine. As I shared in my previous post, I was inspired by the story of the martial art student who claimed that for each good teacher he had in China, all the principles that he would master with them were taught in the very first lesson. So I came up with the 6 C’s of the Math Mission. These are basically my answer to the question “Why should we learn this?”
- Conceptual Understanding of mathematical principles and demonstration of Procedural Fluency,
- Critical Thinking in a mathematical context,
- Communicating Reasoning in a technical field,
- Constructing Models of the natural world,
- Creativity expressed freely and joyfully in the problem solving process,
- Collaboration with others.
At the beginning of my first day with the students, I have them take a 4-question Opening Quiz. Each question is headed by and supports one of the first four of the 6 C’s above, which are the criteria for our state test. I have the students take the quiz with the explanation that it is like a movie trailer. Rather than a test on something I hoped they learned last year, the quiz is a preview of coming attractions. Therefore, I don’t expect them to be able to answer all four questions; however, I do expect them to give an intelligent response. I preach to them that we cannot always give a complete response or even an accurate response, but we can always, always always give an intelligent response. Showing numbers, equations or diagrams is intelligent; leaving the paper blank or writing ‘idk’ is not.
The students work independently for a few minutes while I do the normal housekeeping duties, like checking their course schedules and adding students to the roster. Then I have them share ideas with each other. If they like what they see on someone else’s paper, they are free to write it on their own as long as the person explains it to them. “We share; we don’t copy.”
Then comes the time for a whole class discussion. I use this opportunity to inform the students that this process of independent thought, group sharing and class discourse (think, pair, share) is a normal routine in the class. I point out that the 6 C’s are displayed on the front wall, because this is what I come to work to do each day (my goal). I am not there to get them a good grade (their goal). Of course, if I achieve my goal, they will achieve theirs. So I ask for volunteers on each of the questions, stressing the appropriate meaning for each of the 6 C’s:
The second half of the period is committed to getting to know the students. We start with the first student who stands up, states their name and something interesting about themselves. The statement of interest is really just a stall tactic so that I can review the names that have already been mentioned. After every student has done this, I go back and state all their names. And finish the intros with some brief information about myself.
I close the class by telling them that the order of things today was intentional and symbolic. That the class will be about math first and foremost (not points and homework), and of course, it is each one of them to whom I must teach math, so they are important as well. I reiterate some of the points of the class culture like giving an intelligent response, think-pair-share, and “share, don’t copy.” I hand them the grading policy as they leave. We will discuss each of its points when the time comes. Hopefully, I communicate everything in a dynamic manner so the students anticipate a fun year full of learning.