Monday, August 2, 2010

I need Hans and Franz...

I'm trying to get pumped up for the school year, but it isn't quite happening!

One thing I've been pondering lately is the thought of getting to know my students.  Last year I had two classrooms of students I had to get to know, and this year there will be three classrooms. I feel like the starting activities I use aren't exciting.  How do you get to know your students?  There's always the ice breaker questions, the glyphs, the little write-ups to put on the bulletin board, even digital formats.  What formats have you used most successfully?  I really have no computer access with 2 out of the 3 classrooms of kids I will be working with.  

Something else I have been dwelling on is my IWB.  I will have a Promethan board this year complete with clickers and slate.  I know there are so many people that bash IWBs, and maybe that's part of what is hindering me getting pumped up for the school year.  I need to hear some good things about IWBs.  It's how my district chose to use some tech money, it's installed in my room, and I want to use it to it's fullest.  People with IWBs, how to you use them?

Share your experiences here.  Converse with me.  Pump me up!

P.S. If you don't get the Hans and Franz mention, you're missing some classic SNL!


  1. On the first day, I usually do a few things.

    1. Glyph that they share with their partners. I don't go class-wide with this.

    2. An ice breaker activity (I hate these, but I see them as necessary for some students)

    3. A personal writing prompt (for introverts, really) describing a powerful memory they want to share, a part of their story they think relates to how they learn or a specific area of interest that they want to explore (incidentally, most choose the powerful memory).

    4. A debate asking the question "What is truth? What is reality? Are they the same or different? How do you find out what is real and what is true?"

    What I can't figure out is what to do with the ice breaker. I HATE them. I've done "guess what person I am" and "people bingo" and I'd love a fresh idea of something more relevant.

  2. Thanks for sharing, John. I like the writing prompt idea. I do a cube activity for an ice breaker. They make a cube then label it with something specific on each side, like their family, hobbies, etc, then pair up or get in a small group and roll it. Talk about the side that they roll. I don't know if I love it, but it gets them knowing each other.

  3. Becky,
    I don't have any suggestions for a IWB -- if someone put one in my room I would be lost (to say the least).
    But... I've been struggling with first day of school activities too -- so I'll share my thought journey:
    The past three years, with 8th graders, I've done a rambling autobiography. I have a textbook-style example and my own example to model then I just challenge the students to write for 15 minutes about themselves without worrying about re-reading, form, or organization. I really have had success with this -- I get things from "I play basketball" to "My pet peeve is cupboards left open" (my favorite). But I still got students who only wrote a sentence or two.
    However, this year I start sixth grade! I've been thinking I need to do something else and possibly something more structured with the younger middle schoolers. I have been brainstorming about giving them an about-me form with a twist -- perhaps one that looks like a facebook page? I could call it Misskbook? I want to have some sort of writing (I’m a writing teacher), give them freedom, but still gather the information I need or want to know about them. Is it possible for me to have all three?
    I am in your same predicament with computer labs, my first few days will have to be all paper and pencil based... :(

  4. I think a Facebook page would be fun, Jen! One thing to consider is that 6th graders are under 13, so not "legally" supposed to use facebook...though I'm sure many of them are on it =)

  5. Can you give kids a choice? Sometimes just writing an email/letter to you is good enough, and you can write a letter to them about yourself. Most kids want to know all about you so don't hide anything.

    I also recommend asking students what they think about school. Ask them open ended questions about what they don't like about school or what they wish you would do as a teacher. This could be a good supplement to the basic get-to-know-you activities.

  6. Thanks for the idea, Kate. I have a Google Form made up with some open ended questions. I may add some of your ideas. I do a ppt on the first day about me complete with pictures of Henry, giraffes, and what I did in the summer.

  7. There is a great site called Edmodo, looks a lot like Facebook. Could try that. :-)

    I had a Smartboard in my room for 3 years and loved it. I started out lost and it was just another way of doing the same. I then started using it to record lessons for absent students, print off notes for students with IEPs, and downloaded some great interactive activities from their website.

    Not sure if Promethian has an of those, but it was fun. We now have mimios in all of our K-2 rooms, I think many of them have the same anxieties that you do.

    Good Luck!

  8. Thanks, Kim. I have looked into Edmodo! I just don't know how much I will use it with my students. Promethean is another brand of smartboard. I'm excited about the ability to capture notes and lessons on the board. I may look for hits/tricks from you since they are similar.

  9. Becky,
    I have had a promethean in my classroom the last two years. I have the slate and the activotes. One place I strongly recommend visiting is There are tones of teacher lessons downloaded.

    I have used my promethean for daily interactive lessons to doing lunch count. My fifth graders love this day in history flipchart that I develop that have clips from thew intertnet.

    One thing I can say is the student engagement has really grown because of my IWB. Feel free to ask me any questions. The IWB will make a difference and as always BE ORANGE!

    David Hill

  10. Thanks for the comment, David! I have visited Promethean Planet and have found a few things. I'm learning. I need to figure out how to program the activotes. Our tech guy left suddenly, so we're without one for a month until the new guy can start. I am on my own and I need to program them!