So classes started for me last week and I’ve gotten to the point where I can ignore advice. I guess that means I’m experienced now?
I have mostly juniors and seniors this year; some of these I would change if I was dealing with the 8th-9th grader range.
1. No pre-made seating chart. I had my students seat themselves and label their positions on a chart. If there’s a problem I will move them.
I used to start with random but assigned seating and there were too many problems with a.) students who were ESL and needed to be next to someone to translate b.) students who hated each other with a passion and needed to be far away and c.) students who were simply confused trying to locate themselves on a chart. I tried to alleviate c.) once by pasting name tags on the desks, which resulted in some students trying to untape and move them. Having a discipline confrontation on day 1 is not an ideal situation.
I also keep my class desks pretty close so I don’t have any far-corner-of-the-classroom issues.
2. No specific classroom rules. I would never try this with 8th graders, but 11th and 12th graders — even the slightly crazier ones — really do know what proper behavior is. I only put the three school rules that students love to break (food, cell phones, and hats) and will deal with specific things as they come up.
3. Not always an immediate objective. Some days it is appropriate to hit the objective right away, but other days I would prefer some sort of hook, like getting ten students to fit in a 3 foot by 3 foot box. (That day was estimating square roots.) I find it better to give the objective *after* the hook, given certain students will automatically shut down the day they walk in class and see “adding fractions with unlike denominators” on the board.
As far as less deviant procedures go, in my AIMS Math I am starting with a new AIMS problem every day where we answer using the 1-4 method. (Raise a number of fingers matching the multiple choice answer you think is correct.) Then if there is a vocabulary word causing difficulty I pull open the word processor and we decide on a definition, print it out, and paste it to the word wall. (The word wall started the year blank.)
I also am trying to include some bit of mathematics or science news every day. So far I’ve talked about the American Institute of Mathematics “math castle”, the Large Hadron Collider (and the Hawaii black hole lawsuit), the SpaceX crash and their timing oopsie, and the robot controlled by rat brain cells grown in a vat. Response so far has been positive.