Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 1 Lessons

Build up:

I had all summer to plan my first few days, but I just couldn't find the perfect thing.  At my school, all teachers are required to hand out the syllabus day 1, but I didn't want to spend the whole time reading it.  Last year I focused on procedures at the beginning, this year I wanted to focus more on relationships with my students and math.  I have heard from all my blog-reading that it is OK to save procedures for a few days.

So I set out to search for some good lessons.  While watching the #globalmath session My Favorites (you can view it here), I got lots of good ideas.  I knew right away that @misterpatterson 's Spaced Out sticky note lesson (you can find it an other lessons here) would be AMAZING for my intervention students.  It would address number sense and the usefulness of Algebraic thinking.  It is a perfect fit with my first unit as it also asks students to create an expression for a situation.  There were lots of other great ideas, so I followed links provided by @jreulbach to look at what other people have done on the first day. I ended up really enjoying the By the Numbers introduction that I found from @AmberDCaldwell here.  I thought I could tie it into the decorating ISNs I have seen.

So here's what I did:

For my topics/intervention classes, I modified Spaced Out to meet my student's needs a little bit better.  Here is a link to the document I used:  Spaced Out (modified by me) .  I gave a brief introduction to myself and the class and then had the students begin working.

Spaced Out (modified by me)
I really had to clarify the rule about the space on the ends being the same as the space in the middle.  It seemed a little hard for them to understand, but once they figured it out they started going.  No one was super excited about it, but when they got close and I told them they weren't being accurate enough, then they started to get that determination to succeed.  I only had 1 group (out of 4-5) in each period "pass" level one on the first day.  I made them write notes to themselves so that they would be ready to go on Friday.  For the most part on Thursday the only assistance I gave was checking their measurements and asking questions like:  What have you tried?  Why didn't it work?  Was it too much space or not enough?  What are you going to try next?

After watching my students working through levels 1 and 2 on Thursday and Friday, I wish I had added a level between 2 and 3 that was something like this:  A table is 300 cm long, how much space will be between the five sticky notes?  Hopefully that would push them toward think algebraically instead of just through guess and check.  We will finish it up on Monday.  I set them up at the end of the day on Friday with a hint about calculating the space rather than guess and check; I'm hoping that will get things moving a little more quickly on Monday.

In my Algebra classes I used a Mrs. Freed By the Numbers matching activity to introduce myself a little bit more.  Here is what they saw:
In their group they had to assign a number to each description.  After we finished I asked them to think of 5 numbers that describe them and share them with me.  That was their "exit ticket" on day one.  Hopefully on Monday we will turn their 5 numbers into the back of their ISNs :)

I did also introduce ISNs and give them their syllabus.  I showed them how it folds up so that we can tape it into their notebooks.  Looking forward to doing that with them on Monday when I set the deadline for having a composition book!

Thanks for reading about my first days!


  1. I love level two of your Spaced Out document. It's an easy, natural extension of level one. I, too, would always have students want to put sticky notes at the end of the tables. I've tried addressing this a couple of ways. The first way I tried to address it was by putting an example on the SMARTboard with sticky notes and said, "Don't do this." Though effective, I wasn't too fond of this approach.

    So I tried to change the context from posters to lights...thinking lights could be a context that could address this problem: "Evenly space out the lights."..."Would you put lights up against the edge of a wall/ceiling?"..."Why not?"...good convos there.

    Writing the expressions is definitely the hardest part, but it does a great job at demonstrating how beneficial it is to be able to model problems in order to make solving complex problems easier and more efficient.

    Sounds like a good start to your year!

    1. The light bulbs is a great idea! Thanks for sharing it and the lesson. I look forward to more on Monday and other hungryteacher lessons throughout the year!

  2. Looks like a great way to start the year. I love that you introduced a problem and then had the students continue working for a couple days on it for the first week of school. Hopefully, they will see that math problems shouldn't end at the bell and I'll bet more than one of the students left still working on the challenge. Score for you.

    How did you introduce your ISN's...That's what I want to know..

    1. Yes, being able to continue the problem for a couple days is something I really enjoyed about the lesson and one of the reasons I chose to use it.

      All I really did to introduce ISNs is read what I wrote in my syllabus to them and show how I put my syllabus in mine. We talked about getting a composition notebook by Monday, so on Monday we will tape in our syllabus and glue in our Expectations Foldable (which we worked on on Friday). We will also work on decorating our back covers using their 5 numbers (one of which must be a non-integer). So they will get a bit more then.

      Hope that helps. I can share a link to my syllabus if you want. Just tweet me if you are interested!

  3. Hi Kathryn,
    I love your "Space It Out" activity! I've been rummaging through the blogs for inspiration (school doesn't start for another week for us) and I definitely plan to use this!

    A question: Did you have the students do any sort of reflection at the end of each day? If so, what kind of questions did you have them answer? (I teach all ELL's, so I'm thinking about having them write a short response to: "What was the most difficult thing about this activity today?" or something like that.) If not, how did you use your ISN? (or do you only use the notebooks in your Algebra class?)

    Also, just a thought about a possible Level 5 for any groups that finish early - maybe they could think of how to write an equation if the sizes are fixed and the *number* of stickies are the variable... and then onto how to write an equation when both of those are variables.

    1. Hi, thank you for your kind words. I can't take much credit, though, as Spaced Out originally came from Zack here: It's all free, so you should check it out.

      I only really had the kids leave notes day-to-day about where to start next, but I like your idea of having them reflect. We didn't do it in ISNs, because we really save that for notes and more final reflections. Also I spent 3 class days (about 130 minutes) and my students still barely made it to level 3, with a lot of pushing. I would encourage maybe a reflection question after day 1 that would get them to start thinking mathematically about it rather than simply trial and error. Maybe ask what methods they tried and if they thought it might be possible to approach the problem differently. Maybe Day 2 would have been more productive if I had done that.

      I like your Level 5, that's close to what Zack's original task was and I took it out because I knew my students would struggle with writing expressions, and it was really only my goal to get them to write one (the one in level 3), but it might be that your students are more ready for it. This would be especially true if you do this task with all students rather than just an intervention class.

    2. Ah, awesome. I just downloaded Zack's original version. I had to chuckle at the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", "Power Rangers" and "*NSync" (yes, I put an asterisk) pictures though... My kids would have no idea what/who those/they were. :P

      It's helpful to know how long it took your students. My students are all Chinese ELL's so there's a language and cultural barrier to doing this kind of activity. AND they're freshmen, so there's that too. Maybe I'll do other more collaborative/reflective activities before introducing this activity. Hmmm...