Math Class – Day One

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Updated on 8/11

My school officially starts in about two weeks.  I’m in the process of editing my digital files and revamping them for the new school year.  It’s a process that I tend to complete every year around this time.  Part of me is already thinking that summer is finished (even though I know it’s not), while another part is excited for the new year.  To be honest, I haven’t fully turned the switch to school mode.  I’m gradually moving in that direction though.

I’m putting together this post to collect my thoughts, reflect on what’s worked before and become a bit more organized with my planning.  In the back of this browser I have a bunch of documents open. My Evernote is in my second tab as well as Tweetdeck.  Each document is somewhat related to an ideas of what I can potentially use during the first few days of school.  Some are activities that I’ve used in the past with success and others are brand new to me.

I usually stick with a similar plan for the first few days of school. I generally play it conservative during the first few days.  I’ve used similar activities during the past five years or so.  After all, building the classroom community and creating a math atmosphere is so pivotal in laying the groundwork for a successful year. Right?  So I tend to use activities that I’ve found successful in the past.  That’s interesting because I tend to try out many new activities/tools as the year progresses, but I keep those first few days standard.  This year I’m planning on doing a few things differently.  I’ll be keeping some of the routines the same, while adding a few newbies (to me) in the process. I have to also keep in mind the fire drills and other logistical pieces that are often required during those first few days.

I know that I’ll be seeing at least three classes on the first day of school.  Each class will last about one hour long.  It’s never really an hour long because of commuting time, lockers, materials, and other reasons.  So I basically get around 55ish minutes for the first day.

I’m planning on having a slide on the whiteboard when students enter the classroom.

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This slide is still a work in progress.  I’d like the students to find any seat that they want.  The tables are already setup in groups of three or four.  Generally students gravitate towards their friend crew, although I have a limited amount of seats so that isn’t always possible.  I’m also thinking about giving kids a card and that’s associated with a particular table.  Still mulling around this idea.  My fourth and fifth graders have had me as a teacher before so they’re usually expecting what they saw last year.

After they all sit and quiet down (which is usually so quick on the first day) I’ll review the agenda.  I’ll introduce myself.  I’m not going into details this time.  Usually I say that I’m Mr. Coaty, a Harry Potter fan, live in Illinois, am a swimmer, and so on…  Instead of doing that, I’m borrowing from Sarah and using a “Getting to know Mr. Coaty” quiz.  I don’t have questions yet, but will in a couple days.  We’ll review the quiz as a class and then the kids will give me a multiple choice quiz.  I’ll basically copy Sarah’s amazing idea and have them put this together and turn it in before the end of the class.  I’m thinking this quiz activity will take around 15 minutes or so.  I’m planning on taking the quizzes after students leave.  I think this a fantastic way to get to know your students and is also a positive step towards building rapport.

After the quiz the class will play a game or two of the geometry game.  It’s similar to Simon Says, but with geometry and number terms.  For example, when I say acute angle, students make an acute angle with their arms.  I show the students the motions associated and then we’ll practice.  This shouldn’t take more than five minutes.  This game is revisited throughout the year as more vocabulary is introduced.

I’ll then pass out the standard “beginning of the year” papers.  At one point I almost went  completely digital with this, but I had issues getting back all of the documents.   My information letter explains the curriculum, policies and all of the other formal pieces.  The Twitter letter explains how the class uses Twitter and how to follow the class on our journey.  The parent information letter is homework for the parents.  Parents fill out their name, contact information and any other comments that they feel I need to know about their child.  I tend to get everyone of these sheets back.  About half have comments and sometimes a couple are more than a page long.  I appreciate hearing from the parents – it gives me a different perspective. The last part of the packet is the math unit letter.  The letter comes from Everyday Math and explains what’s included in the first unit of study.  I’ll review the entire packet with the kids and then ask for questions.  Students put this away and we move on.

This is where I’ll explain the arrival/dismissal flow chart.  I will (hopefully by next week) have flow charts hanging up in my class explaining what to do during arrival and dismissal.


I try to make this as concise as possible.  The class will practice the arrival process.  We’ll go in the hall and then enter back into the classroom.  I find elementary students need this practice at first.  I’ll give examples and counter-examples.  I go a little overboard with the counter-examples, but I think the kids have a good understanding of what’s expected.  I’ll do the same with the dismissal flow chart.  This takes a good 10 minutes.

If we have time, my plan is to start Sara’s 100 numbers activity.  The students will already be in groups, so I’ll plan on following Sara’s example that she showcases on her blog.  I’m hoping to have students start to see the positive benefits of working in groups. I’ll be taking pictures and videos that the class can discuss afterwards.  I think this will be a good lead-in to when the class discusses appropriate critiquing later in the week.  This will probably take at least 20-30 minutes.   I might even have to extend it into the next class period.

Near the end of the class I’ll pass out the student consumable journals.  We’ll review the dismissal flow chart and I’ll send my kids to their next class.  I might end with a teaser about how we’ll be looking at math puzzles tomorrow.  I realize that this is a lot to accomplish in one class session.  I’m flexible in moving the 100 activity to the next class if needed.

Update:  8/11

After thinking about it and talking with a number people on Twitter, I’m going to switch up some of these activities.  We’re allowed to change our plans, right?  I guess this post is a living a document.  : )  I boxed the changes.

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I decided to give students the opportunity to create name tents.  This is straight out of Sara’s post.  The back will have a daily feedback form for the first five days.  I’ll probably start asking them questions by the time days 3-4 roll around.  I’m going to give a lengthly amount of time for this during the first day.

So I decided to move the 100 activity to day two.  I’m afraid that the class won’t have enough time to complete that entire activity in the limited time that we have.  I’d rather have students complete that activity in its entirety, instead of splitting it up into multiple days.  I think it loses some of it’s bang if it’s split up.  The puzzle activity will replace the 100 activity.  Students will each be given a puzzle piece.  Students will fill them out and the pieces will be compiled to border the class door.

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I just need to remember to give out an appropriate amount of pieces to each class so it actually makes a rectangular border.

The second day looks like this:

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This is what’s scheduled to occur, barring any fire drills or expectations meeting.  I read about the triad of responsibility chart about a week ago through Caitlyn’s blog and thought this would be another great way to emphasize classroom community.  It also emphasizes the math component.  I think this anchor chart has a place in my classroom.  It’d be great to have the class co-create it and then it can be referred to throughout the year.  Major kudos to Caitlyn for writing about her experience at NYC Math Lab.  I could see this working really well with my own classroom.

Another piece that I added this year is related to a math claims wall.  I’d like to use a full bulletin board for this and claims will be added and the modified as the year progresses. Something similar to this:

Since I teach multiple grade levels I might split up the board into three parts.  This is my first year trying a math claim wall out so it’ll be interesting.  🙂

I’ll be introducing the paper roller coaster on day two.  Usually my third graders complete this. This is one of my students’ favorite activities and it usually lasts for the majority of the year.

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For the past few years I’ve bought one set and used it as a math station.  Students work on creating a base and foundation for the coaster.  They have to cut and score the card stock and eventually create around a five foot roller coaster.  I’ll only have time to introduce the project, but it’s a real exciting time as students enjoy the creative aspect of this activity.

We’ll end day two with the tent feedback forms and a look at factors.  Over the next few days the class will start Estimation180, write in their math journals and work on the first unit of study.

I’m looking forward to what this new year brings!


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