Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Excitement and Engagement Starting Day 1!

The first day of school is coming up. I know typically for students it's a time to be sad and disappointed that summer is ending. Heck, I know I'm even disappointed that I can't sleep in and relax on a beach chair, but alas all good things come to an end. So even though this is a little bit of a depressing time for both teachers and students it doesn't have to be. It should be a celebration of learning and making school a fun and exciting place to go. If your not excited about something, not passionate, things become a chore. But, if you show your passion and excitement it can be contagious and what was once a chore is now an exciting journey.
It seems like an idea that should be common knowledge, but it took me attending the Ron Clark Academy and learning of their first day activities to really know how impactful the first day of school can be. I visited a year ago and last year was the first year I decided to change it up. Last year, I sent postcards out to every student that was registered for my class. We don't get class lists until about a week before school starts, but I sent them out hoping the students would get them in time. (Which they did, Go US Postal!) I simply found a free postcard template on TPT and printed it on card stock at home. I chose a Dr. Seuss quote, "Oh, All the Places You Will Go!" I thought it meant a lot for 5th graders and he is my favorite author. I wrote hand written notes that were similar to each student, that I tried to personalize, welcoming them to my class and showing my excitement for the year.

This year I am excited to go a little further. I created classroom invitations that go with my hockey themed classroom. On the front is just all the information about the first day and when it is, but on the back is a QR code. Now, I start by saying I don't use QR codes in my class, just because  1. I haven't used them before and I'm not sure how/ when to use them 2. It seems more difficult if the students don't have iPads or IPhones. So creating a QR code was new to me, but I was very excited to try it out. The QR code it's a link to my first ever classroom website that I created through Weebly. Weebly is really awesome and easy to use on the computer. What I will say is that if it's your first time creating one do it in chunks because it can be time consuming if you try and really go big. I was able to make a really great site with a few different pages for contact info, about the teacher, and resource links.
My favorite part is the riddle page I designed. I decided to start the year working on reading skills. These skills focusing on inference and context clues.  I also plan on doing a mystery in the first few weeks of school as a review project for context clues and inference skills. So when creating a website and thinking about engaging my students at the very beginning of the year I decided to have them solve a riddle using inference skills. So one page on the website is dedicated to this first day riddle. I asked the students to solve a small riddle and fill out a google form after they think they have the answer. The Google form also has a few questions that help me to get to know the students better and what they did over the summer.
This is my first time trying this and I plan to send a fun letter with the invitation to explain to the parents and students what the riddle task is and how to use the QR code. We will have to see if and how this all works out but my hope is that it goes well.

Our building will also be having a grand opening of sorts for the school year. The plans are still being made but the idea is still to celebrate the beginning and make a strong impact of excitement for school and learning. We are thinking music, balloons, maybe a performance or something fun after a few words from the principal. Like I said it is still in the planning stages but it will be something different that the students will probably never expect.

How do you plan to start the year? What will you do to welcome your students?

Let me know your ideas on:
Twitter: @teaching_power
Facebook Group: Teaching Power Play
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