This was my tweet at the end of the day on Thursday. It was an amazing day. I had so much fun with kids. Since I am now teaching mostly upper classmen, I know almost everyone who comes to class. I didn't have to spend a lot of time learning names, so we could get right down to the business at hand.
I started off each class with a seating arrangement activity (we'll do this for the first five days of school). I don't usually have seating charts in my classes, but I want to make sure that kids have a chance to interact with everyone in the class early on in the semester. They tend to get stuck in the same spots all semester! High schoolers are definitely creatures of habit, so forcing them to sit with others, even for five days, will help create community. As we form discussion groups and conference groups, I want everyone to feel comfortable with each other.
Once seated, in most classes, we solved group mysteries the first day.
Again, a method to my madness. Each group received an envelope with clues to a mystery--either a murder mystery or a bank robbery. They were to divide the clues as evenly as possible and then work to solve. They could not pass around the clues or put them all out in the middle of the table. The only way to share was to read them out loud. They had to participate, listen, follow directions, and HAVE FUN. All this will be needed when we start discussion groups and writing conference groups.
We ended our day with our home base advisory groups. We have had homerooms before, but they were usually used to hand out information and take Iowa Assessments in. Our CBE team wants all students to have a positive relationship with at least one adult at school. When we visited Pittsfield, New Hampshire's Middle High School last year, we were impressed with their advisory periods and how they ran. They happily shared info with us, so we could create our own. Both Thursday and Friday we ran an early out schedule and had advisory at the end of the day.
We will stay with our advisory groups for all four years they are in high school (we've done that for awhile). Our fantastic principal sent out detailed plans on what to do during that time, although if we changed things up a bit, it wasn't a huge deal. We were involved in get to know you activities the first day (and the obligatory dress code rules) and on the second day we talked about student led conferences (for second semester) and what they need in teachers, what kind of learners they are, etc. Since I have freshmen this year, it was great for me to get to know them this way. I knew all their names by the end of the first hour and even remembered them all the second day!
And so here I sit on Saturday morning, eagerly waiting for Monday morning. I can't wait to see where this year takes us....