A couple weeks ago, I came across an article titled, "The Absolute Worst Way to Start the Semester" and was inspired to rethink the first day of school. For the last few years I have used an introductory activity to practice historical thinking skills. The idea behind the activity was to empower students to practice being historians from day one. They are presented with an artifact and must use what they know to build a back-story, predict certain facts, and ask appropriate questions. Here is the basic plan:
I am the Teacher Technology Lead on my campus and starting writing monthly newsletters last year. My first newsletter is all about this same topic. Here are the recommendations I made to try and change up the first day in order to avoid the boring "go over the syllabus" lesson:
#4 really got me thinking. I think I might try sending my students out onto the school campus to find an artifact they think someone uncovering our school in 500 years. They will take a picture and then provide an analysis of the image (similar to the Historical Thinking Puzzle questions). I would also challenge them to consider how someone might mis-interpret the use and have them come up with some alternate explanations. Still mulling around the idea. They can easily share the images through Google Drive and we can create one giant Google Drawing document with the artifacts and commentary.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: my students will not be sitting for long; they will not hear me talk very much; and, they will definitely have to develop their own set of questions. One of my primary tasks over the course of the year is to help students develop the ability to ask questions. Therefore, that is what we will do on day one.
Please share some of your ideas in the comments section. I'd love to get some new ways of re-thinking the first day of school.