Saturday, September 9, 2017

The First Week: Building a Triad of Responsibility

First Week 2015
First Week 2009
I have a history of very interesting first weeks of school.  There have been good ones, meh ones, and downright weird ones. My very first first day of school ended abruptly in an early dismissal and subsequent closing of school for days due to a massive flood. Two years ago, I sliced the tip of my finger off trying to make pickled radishes and went to school in full middle finger bandage....basically flipping off my classes for the entire first week. (Luckily, my husband got to see silver nitrate in action when I got my finger cauterized and had a cool story to tell his chemistry classes that year...)

NYC Math Lab Triad of Responsibility

This week was, by far, my favorite first week I've had in my 7 years. I loved all of my classes, felt like I got to know more than usual about my kids, and it's been the most perfect September weather here in Upstate NY. I tried a bunch of new things and brought out some old favorites. I celebrated with coworkers and went to bed by 8:30 pm on Friday. 

The biggest difference maker for me this year was the marriage of 2 different activities I learned about this summer. First, I had my classes participate in Sara Van Der Werf's 1-100 Task as one of our first day activities. I decided to fuse this with one of my experiences from NYC Math Lab this summer. In Math Lab, we used the Triad of Responsibility to help set norms for the students. I loved this idea and thought it was a natural fit for the first day. 

Before we started the activity, I had my students individually brainstorm their responsibilities to themselves as students. It was amazing to see the difference between answers in a Geometry with Lab class (1.5 times the class minutes of a typical Geometry class) and an AP Calculus class. 

Side Note: The Calc ones almost made me grade oriented, no examination of yourself as a whole person. It would have been how I answered in high school and it's part of the reason I love doing this particular work with these kids. I hope they all begin to see that they are valuable for more than just a number. 

Next, I had the students perform the 1-100 task as described in Sara's blog. Overall, we did it 3 times and discussed group norms or "Responsibilities to My Group" in reference to the activity. 

Lastly, we discussed "Responsibilities to our Classroom Community" in reference to our whole group discussion. Each class had common themes, but brought many unique answers. Even if lot of math teachers aren't into them, it was a warm, fuzzy day and I ate it up. 

Here are what my kids generated from our conversations:

These are nice to hang in the classroom, sure, and I've already found myself referring back to them in our first 3 days of instruction. But you cannot imagine the difference this short activity made with my students.  I have seen the type of group work I normally don't see until November or December during the 3rd day of class. I have seen students checking in with each other to make sure everyone in the group understands. I have seen communication from every student in a group. Students are taking small risks, testing the reactions of their classmates and seeing that it is okay to be wrong. And they're asking questions! I'm very interested to see how this initial sense of community carries on through the year and I feel a huge responsibility to live up to the expectations of a safe environment that I've set from the first day. Anyone have any favorite ways to keep that sense of community and safety going all year long? 

Best of all, the posters got approval from a very harsh and deciphering academic who only wags her tail at her favorite first day strategies. 

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