To open the year

The first few days of school are crucial to set the stage for the year. I have spent significant time thinking about how I want to open the year and what I would like my students to leave either saying or thinking about my class. Here are my thoughts…

  • This is going to be fun!
  • She actually knows my name and wants to learn about me.
  • I wonder what we are going to do tomorrow?
  • Is she that way everyday?
  • I will find success in this class.

Fun is first on the list because I want my kids to look forward to coming to class. We can absolutely accomplish our goals for the year while having a great time in the process. There will be smiles starting the first day and every day following (can you tell I am not one of those don’t smile until after Christmas people?). Not everything will be easy, but stress levels can be reduced for a difficult task by making the learning environment an enjoyable, fun place to be. Each day will start with music not only because I love it, but because music is such an important part of the adolescent life. I started this last year and my kids would tell me how it was like entering another world when they came in.

Relationships are of utmost importance  I get to know my kids names within the first couple of days but I must not stop there. The primary focus during the first week is to form those critical relationships. I need to get to know my students as fast as humanly possible and let them know that I am a person as well. I am not some entity that lives at school, but a mother, wife, reader, learner, runner, and more. If I can give them a window into my passions, hopefully they will give me a glimpse of theirs.

Keep ’em coming back for more! One thing I am trying for the first time this year is to leave them hanging a bit at the end of each day.  This has worked countless times in books, television shows, etc. Why not use a little anticipation in the classroom? I have seen my children in the days leading up to Christmas and the excitement is palpable. Now, I don’t expect that this will be to the same level, but the same principle applies.  I want my class to be engaging, interactive, and a little different each day. Do you remember from your school experiences the class that was the exact same each day? Was it your favorite?
I want my students to wonder if I can possibly keep my enthusiasm level up for 180 school days. I love teaching and this should be present in everything I do. I also love Spanish and can’t wait to introduce them to a new language, new cultures, and a more global perspective. Enthusiasm is contagious, and I am ready to let it spread and grow in my classroom  And on the days when my enthusiasm wanes? If I have worked this out correctly, my students will bring enough to share with me.

Success will need to be loosely defined in my class before we pursue it. I will give my students the standards and let them determine the path to achieve mastery. I say loosely because I don’t want to stifle my students creativity or achievement by setting the bar and just waiting for them to get there. I want to encourage them to go beyond, the possibilities are endless. There are only so many things that I can imagine for them, but they can go much farther.  I tell my students that we will find success no matter the struggle and that it is worth all their effort.

So, as I am planning the specific activities for the first few days of class, this is what I am going to keep in mind.

What do you want your students to say and think after your first week?

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  1. Meg King-Abraham August 23, 2013 at 9:04 PM - Reply

    I wish I could go back in time to be a student in your class! I have been thinking about what I consider to be my guiding principles. With one week left before school begins, I want to translate my beliefs into actions that are apparent to my K-5 students. I am also excited to begin very differently than I did early in my career…and even from last year. I appreciate your enthusiasm!

  2. senora robertson August 11, 2013 at 10:34 AM - Reply

    Thanks for making time to share a window into your classroom. Please take some photos of your pipe cleaner masterpieces to share! Bet the explanations are awesome and it is a great icebreaker–although it doesn’t sound like much ice has time to form on your wings.

    Could you share some of the specific first days activities you are considering? I used an activity that helped explain novice to intermediate (explain a circus to a Martian–groups follow instructions on cards to use single word English, while others use more advanced language, then they share stories and place them into the rubric). This helped all year long in understanding proficiency guidelines. I heard “That sounds like a low novice answer.”

    Also a question about the music…I drifted away from music because our school used pop music as a countdown timer for the tardy bell between class and now I realize I missed it. suggestions how to re-insert music, maybe at the end? I want my AP students to take turns creating a 5 song play list for the week. When could I put this into my class as part of the routine?

    • Garnet Hillman August 12, 2013 at 7:34 AM - Reply

      Thanks for reading and your comments! The second day we will tackle what the students think are the 10 most important words to know in Spanish, and the third day we explore the standards based grading system that I use in my class as well as learning preferences and profiles. I will be blogging more in detail about the first week as it gets going on Wednesday!

      I am incorporating music a little differently this year. I will be doing a song of the week with my kids. It will be on as they enter each day, and we will bring it in to instruction as it applies with vocabulary, structures, etc. That very well may be another post once I get it going!

  3. Anne Lee August 6, 2013 at 8:22 PM - Reply

    Love your blog! I think I’m going to post some quotes from TLAP where I can easily see them on days when my enthusiasm is about to fall apart! I’m not worried about the first few days–it’s more like the beginning of October when the novelty wears off. I guess my question all year will be: How can I prevent the novelty from wearing off?

    • Garnet Hillman August 8, 2013 at 8:53 PM - Reply

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne! We will have to work together to keep sparking new creative ideas. If we keep them guessing about what will happen next, the novelty won’t wear off!

  4. Sra. Spanglish August 5, 2013 at 7:32 PM - Reply

    I was feeling ambitious at the end of last year and started piecing together my first few days from previous first days. Too bad I hadn’t read TLAP yet, because, yeah, they would have been able to say none of those things you are aiming for. I’m in the process of readjusting my approach from getting them to say “I better not step out of line” to “I think I’ll like it here!”

    • Garnet Hillman August 6, 2013 at 8:15 PM - Reply

      It is such a change from the beginning of my career when I was trying too hard to separate myself from my students instead of getting to know them. I am excited to try out some new ideas this year and keep learning myself to continue improving. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Laura!

  5. Profe August 5, 2013 at 6:39 PM - Reply

    So wonderful to read this!! Me alegro!

    with love,
    Laurie Clarcq

  6. Kathryn Freed August 5, 2013 at 6:33 PM - Reply

    There are so many wonderful things in this post, but I resonate most with this: “I want my students to wonder if I can possibly keep my enthusiasm level up for 180 school days.”

    • Garnet Hillman August 6, 2013 at 8:11 PM - Reply

      Thanks Kathryn, it is a challenge for myself as well 🙂 I love what I do and I want that to resonate each day in my room. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  7. curriculumguy August 5, 2013 at 6:03 PM - Reply

    I love your comment on leaving them anticipating. What a great idea Garnet!

  8. Misty White August 5, 2013 at 5:55 PM - Reply

    I love this post! I too have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I will open my show. I have a few things in mind, but if something better comes along, I will change it in a heart beat. This will be the topic of #SCItlap this week.

    • Garnet Hillman August 6, 2013 at 8:10 PM - Reply

      Thanks Misty! I am in the final stages of planning activities for the first few days, but getting my thinking organized with this post has been very helpful to me. Here’s to a great start to the year!

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