-by Jon Bergmann-
Too often, the first day of school is filled with us teachers sharing about class expectations and syllabi. Imagine being a student who has to sit through seven or eight of these presentations. Instead of sharing your syllabi on the first day, what if you skipped the syllabi and used this class time to engage, invigorate and inspire.
But you say: My students need to know what to expect. In my teacher education classes, they told me to set clear expectations for my students!
What if… You simply introduce yourself, handout your expectations (with a twist) and then have the most awesome, engaging, creative activity for students to do. Get them active in their learning the first day. Get them doing something interesting and exciting. It might be something to merely get them sharing about themselves so that you can get to know them better, or something content related where they have to solve a problem or do some sort of research. Remember, they have been away from school for a long time, and we need to re-energize their brains and get them back into “school” mode.
One activity I often did with students on the first day was to give the tallest tower challenge. Students are given supplies and asked to create the tallest free-standing tower. Some of the supplies were things like pieces of paper, paper clips, cups, and straws. There is a detailed explanation of the activity here. Groups of students are given 20 minutes to do the exercise, and as a class, we debrief about their problem-solving strategies. This is an ideal activity for a science class and may not work in all contexts. The key is to have something that engages students on the first day.
Here is the twist. Remember the handout you gave on the first day. You need to make one more thing. Make a flipped video of your course expectations. Put a link to your flipped video on the handout, so students know where to access it. Also, provide a QR code to the video. During this video, you could not just go over your expectations, but if you are planning to flip your class, you can explain what your flipped class will look like and how students are expected to participate. If you do this, I encourage you to build in some interactivity. Have students respond to some questions online so you can accomplish some goals: You will know who accessed the video content, see if they understand what is going on, and provide a place where they can ask questions of the group.
Then on the second day, lead a conversation about your class expectations. Do NOT lecture. Make this an interactive and engaging whole class discussion. Share with them the data you collected from the flipped video. Show them how you as a teacher can see what questions they ask from the flipped expectations video. Also, show them that you know if they don’t watch it. A couple of tools that do this well are EdPuzzle and Playposit.
This discussion may take a long time, or it may be short. If it is short, then move on to another remarkable and engaging activity. And even if you are not planning on fully flipping your class, flipping your class expectations will get students active and engaged right away.
So start your class off right by setting yourself and your students up for deeper engagement and meaningful relationships.
Have a great first few days of school!