The First Day of School

10 Aug

What do you do on the first day of school?

Our teachers did a lot to promote growth mindset, learning math using the math practices, and norms for teamwork.

More of us asked students with which statement(s) they agree, from Carol Dweck’s Mindset. We were pleasantly surprised at how many of our students have a growth mindset towards mathematics (statements 3 and 4).

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We will continue to work on promoting mindset and making our classrooms a place where errors are welcome – where making mistakes and correcting those mistakes is evidence that students are learning. Some teachers showed one of Jo’s videos about mindset and mistakes. We are also encouraging students to sign up for Jo Boaler’s course through Stanford, How to Learn Math: For Students.

Several of us asked students what it looks like when your team is working well together.

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There is no yelling or fighting.

Everyone contributes; we help each other.

Create a variety of ideas and listen to all ideas. We build off of one another’s ideas.

Constructive Criticism− if someone gets the answer wrong, don’t lower their self-esteem by saying stuff like “”Ha. you got it wrong!””.

Agree to disagree respectfully.

Expand knowledge, learn life skills, and be open minded.

We have stimulating conversations.

We make progress.

Teams also work better wearing matching shirts.

Synergy. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


We debuted our Learning Mode poster so that we make students more aware of how they should currently be learning – alone, with a partner, with a team, or participating in a whole class discussion. The best moment in my second class was when I looked up and noticed that a student sitting near the front had changed the learning mode for us based on my verbal instructions. The class had already nominated her to be in charge of the poster!

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One of our other teachers used video clips from the Big Bang Theory to help students have a better understanding of the Math Practices. You can find them under “Going Deeper with the Big Bang Theory”.

Many of us gave our students a copy of the Math Practices Poster that we have hanging in our rooms.

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Another teacher assigned each team a Math Practice and asked them to make some kind of visual representation of the Math Practice. They hung the posters, and then all of the teams viewed the posters and matched the practice to the poster. Another class “judged” all of the posters for each practice at the end of the day and voted on which one will be hung in the teacher’s classroom. Can you tell which practice is represented by each poster?

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All of us started with open-ended, low floor high ceiling tasks so that every student had access to starting the task. One student told her teacher that “geometry is going to be fun”. Another student told his teacher that he was so glad they did something during class besides going over policies.

This year’s journey is off to a good start, and I am thankful for the good company of my math department along the way …


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8 responses to “The First Day of School

  1. Pamela Baker

    August 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    You are reading my mind…I was trying to figure out what I could do on the first days of school…thanks for sharing great ideas.

  2. Kayla Scheitlin

    August 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for posting! This gives me a great starting point for my own first day of school plans.

  3. goldenoj

    August 11, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Excellent start and good resources. I’ll borrow some of this to start my preservice elementary teachers – thanks!

  4. Matt

    August 11, 2014 at 9:41 am

    There are many useful ideas in this post. The learning mode poster seems like a great idea and helps students think about their own learning. What a great way to emphasize metacognition and a growth mindset at the same time.

  5. Alisha gibson

    August 24, 2014 at 7:47 am

    I took your lead this year in my Geometry class and I can truly say the discourse that followed was wonderful there are some that are having issues expressing themselves but we will work on it throughout the year

  6. Alisha Gibson

    August 4, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Even in the midst of this pandemic, I refer back to your notes on how to engage students on the first day of school

    • jwilson828

      August 4, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      i am so glad they are helpful, Alisha. I will be thinking of you and your students as you begin another year of learning together, especially during circumstances that are more challenging than usual. Take good care friend.


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