As much as you want to just “start in”, you can’t.
Introductions are, indeed, needed. The business of class expectations, the syllabus, and lab safety must, indeed, be addressed.
Each student is handed a playing card just before entering the classroom. They smile, curious. No matter how old they are, students enjoy the unexpected. The instruction, “Find the match” sends them scurrying into the classroom. They locate their matching card and carefully seat themselves determining who will be sitting by them. Backbacks are slid onto the floor beneath the tables. Instinctively students take out their pencil cases, eager to tackle the task in front of them. What is it about the presence of a glue stick that is particularly exciting? Joviality ensues as each student ponders his or her favorite movie, book, ice cream, drink, etc. from the summer.
“I cried so hard in that movie”
“So did I. The book made me cry too”
“What if you don’t like any other drinks other than water?”
“It was a thick book but I made it through”
And on and on it goes as students reminisce and share while filling out their cards. After they glue the paper onto one of the cards, we share as a group. And that’s fun too. Most students are surprised that I have both read and seen “Divergent” and they eagerly offer their critiques. We find common ground, we laugh, we joke, we know it’s going to be a good year.
Next they work in pairs or small groups to fill in the blanks on the class expectations. The laminated poster waits upside down while they work away. For some reason, they have fun with this too! “A _ _ _ _ _ on t _ _ _” (Arrive on time) and “Take ‘o _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _’ of your l _ _ _ _ _ _ _” (Take ownership of your learning) both seem to really stump them. Students seem to enjoy the challenge of this nonthreatening, ungraded activity.
The lab safety contract they’ll read at home and we’ll cover during the next class.
Of course I’d like to say, “Science rocks. You’re going to learn. You’re going to enjoy it” and move on, however, we review the syllabus. Students with computers bookmark my web site and confirm that class activity and homework will be posted there. It still amazes me how much at ease they are with their computers. After all, it is only the first day and some students are new to the school. Finding the site and creating a bookmark is nothing to them.
With some classes we also talk about eco-schools (and our goal to become one) or move on to content. Second year IB students already plunge into a Paper 1 exam, evaluating how helpful their summer stack of notecards are (or aren't).
We’re off and running and boy does it feel wonderful! I hope the students are as eager as I am. Wishing all returning teachers and students an energized year full of discovery and learning.