Innovation: Education

What will your #1st5days be like this year?

Welcome back! You’re doing amazing.

#1st5days icon: which word will define your start to the new school year?Oh those heady #1st5days of school. So much shrieking, so much laughter — and students to contend with as well. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran, new to the classroom or somewhere in between, we’ve gathered some resources you can draw on as you jump back into the year.

As always, let’s start with students. Here are 5 resources for getting to know your students.

1.  “Things I wish my teachers knew…”

Who are these amazing people you get to spend the next nine months with every day?

Iowa-based educator Erin Olson, has provided a great set of prompts for beginning a dialogue with your students.

Olson reported that the exercise had two purposes: one, it let her know every student could successfully get into their Google account. (Because we all know sometimes that can be its own whole process).

But more importantly, it made sure every student knew she values them as complicated, multi-dimensional and emotional human beings. When she asked them to complete the sentence “I respect teachers who…” she opened a door for them to tell her exactly what they need from her and the other teachers in their lives.

This educator provides some scaffolding activities for implementing the popular “Things I wish my teacher knew…” activity. You begin by sharing three things you want your students to know about you, and then you hand out index cards for them to share in return.

The trust goes both ways and begins flowing on day one.

2. Morning Check-In with Google Docs

Let your students know how to reach you, and how to let you know what’s going on in their lives.

Rockstar educator Laura Botte created a Google Form where her students can check in with her each morning, and ask for additional help when they need it. The frequency helps students navigate the day-to-day changes that come with being in the middle grades, and the technology makes it easier to navigate the social anxiety that can come with asking for help.

3. “This is Me”: a HyperDoc portfolio

Educator Meagan Kelly asks her students to create HyperDocs to introduce themselves. They watch a pair of YouTube videos, including the song This Is Me (video link), and app-smash some resources into a Google Slides presentation. They then share and comment on each other’s introductions. The resulting HyperDocs can be added to as students grow and change throughout the year.

Kelly’s made her resources available for you to use with your own students at the link above.

4. Break out the vision boards

Let’s get visual

In case you don’t run in interior / fashion design circles or are on Pinterest all that much, vision boards are collections of curated images that convey a specific message. They’re frequently used to encourage progress toward a goal, but they can also be intensely and entirely personal.

Let me tell you a story.

Way back in the long ago, I marched bass drum in my high school marching band. It was a serious AAA marching band, complete with formal uniforms made of thick, starched wool. (In California. During heat waves. Dear 1980s: you were a whole lot.)

And the uniform came with a hat. A shiny hat. With an ostrich feather on top. Anyway, you had to keep the hat and feather in your hatbox when it wasn’t being worn, and those hatboxes got thrown on the truck for away performances.

Now, our band had like, 200 people in it, and the only way to find your hatbox on the truck was by decorating it. And we all did. It was the heady days of 1989, people, so think magazines and packing tape, magazines and packing tape.

Here’s my point: you would know more about me as an angsty, hairdo-obsessed teenager by looking at my hatbox than by any other measure I could name. My hatbox told you who I was and what I was most passionate about.

The good news is that you don’t have to assemble a 200-person marching band in order to have your students create vision boards. But look around your classroom: what serves as your students’ hatboxes?

No hatboxes? No problem.

Start a class Pinterest account and have each student create a board that tells you about them, say, 10 items minimum. Ask them to cite their sources for the image and encourage them to comment on each other’s images, signing their name to each comment.

Have a Padlet account? Padlet can do something similar. Or Adobe Spark for budding videographers. Or just plain old magazines and packing tape will do in a pinch. There’s something intensely tactile and satisfying about getting the tape perfectly smooth, and some of your students know exactly what I’m talking about.

Finally, give yourself room and space to learn & grow

The incredibly talented Rowland Foundation provided some good advice on twitter on how to approach the entire #1st5days from a place of love, flexibility and self-care.

Words to live by.

And they’re right: whatever and however you tackle the #1st5days of school this year, you — yes you reading right now — you, are doing amazing. None of these resources are mandatory, and please feel free to share some others that you’ve found or created.

And we hope that whatever you want to get out of the #1st5days, you have the support and flexibility to see it come into being.

You got this.

What’s one word you’re using to guide your #1st5days this year?

Audrey Homan

Audrey Homan is a Vermont-based digital media producer, and producer of The 21st Century Classroom podcast. She's worked in non-profit communications for more than a decade, and in her spare time writes tiny video games and mucks about with augmented reality and arduinos, ably assisted by six dogs.

Interviewing students and yelling in PHP are the best parts of her job.

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