School starts on a Wednesday this year (a change from the last two years). I’m adjusting to a new grade (8th), new content (science and PE join my repertoire this year), and a team of coworkers (who I’m sure will be great). It’s a lot of grasp. I would be lying if I said I never felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest as I was setting up my room this week, thinking about the year to come. In order to alleviate some of that stress, I thought it would be helpful to talk about what I have planned for the first three days.
First, I got to talk about my squad goals. I know at some point I’ll have to drop using the latest and lamest slang terms, but this term actually felt appropriate as I was thinking about what I want this year to be for myself and my students. According to Google, squad goals are what a person wants their group of friends (squad) to accomplish. I’m modifying this definition to be what I want my classes (squads) to accomplish. They’re not friends, but I can still have aspirations for my students, right? Anyway, the squad goals I have for students this year are more refined than in year’s past and are best presented in bullet form:
- Do as much for themselves as possible
- Ask questions
- Learn/Reinforce the idea that all work is valuable and expect the best from themselves
- Help others
- Ask themselves questions
I included the last bullet point because students often struggle with self-questioning and often are unclear about what it means to ask themselves questions about problems. The other goals are a reflection of my philosophy of education and expectations for students.
Now that my squad goals have been defined, here’s a rundown of activities I plan to use during the first three days of school to establish these goals and get students to see what these actually look like in the classroom. Commence more bullet points!
- Random Questions Introductions – I plan to ask students random questions during attendance on the first day, then have students stand up and ask each other random questions at various times during the first week. By random questions, I mean creative questions like, “If you could rename Illinois, what would you call it and why?” I want to students to get to know each other, get used to asking questions, and get used to thinking of questions.
- Introduce and practice music cues – I know I keep bringing up this topic, but the first week is a prime opportunity to tell students why I use music cues (to promote independence) and get students used to carrying out tasks when certain music clips are played.
- Noah’s Ark and Marshmallow Tower – Noah’s Ark is a good introduction to problem-solving strategies (asking questions and helping each other) that my math classes will complete. The Marshmallow Tower activity will serve a similar purpose for my science classes with the added element of me introducing the 8 Science and Engineering Practice from the NGSS.
- Fill-in-the-blank Syllabus – This activity is mainly meant to make sure students get all the basic information about my class and familiarize themselves with my expectations and routines. The added benefit of this activity is that it’s the first of the millions of times students will hear the phrase, “Everyone does everything.”
- My Job, Your Job, Parent’s Job, Our Job – I like this activity because it reveals how much students already know about what is expected for their learning (expecting the best) and it brings the element of parent involvement into the picture.
Overall, I want the first three days of this school year to be ones that set a productive tone for the year. While we’re not diving into content straight away, I know these activities (and what I say about these activities) will get students familiar with my classroom and my squad goals.
What are your squad goals? Let me know!