Day 3: The One With The First Day (and the Colors and Shapes)

…and we’re off to our first day of content. Traditionally, we spend the first 2 days of school for 9/10 students doing orientation to school values and what it’s like to be a student at our school. Orientation for me is always a bit jarring (but totally necessary) as it takes me a while to get out of “last year” mode and into “this year” mode. Our classes restart with a fresh (sometimes much lower) level of English and all the 10th graders (many of whom I taught for two years) disappear off to 11th grade. Our school isn’t big, but I feel like I haven’t seen many of them (except the two who sneak into my class and try to pretend they are still my students. Sigh.)

Today marks our first day of content. Teachers talk a lot about the first day of content and the tone it sets and the message that students take away. We reworked a lot of our first day activity (previously the marshmallow challenge) which left my room a mess the last time (just in time for me to host staff meeting, naturally). I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out – lots of reading, lots of teamwork, a fair amount of speaking English (there were probably more ways to push for this). Students did a secret problem – one person got a design of shapes and had to describe it, using only English, to their team. They then had to check if their team got it right and help them to make changes.

Photo: The Journal and the ShapesShapes and Colors

At the end of class, we asked students to write journals writing about how their group worked. We did this structure two years ago, then abandoned it when we felt that reflection homework (basically, writing about what they learned that week) took that place.

It’s always interesting to watch newcomer English Language Learners try something for the first time, especially when there’s a lot of writing involved. Groups have been doing a solid job helping each other, explaining what to write, translating. It’s admittedly the honeymoon period, but I hope it lasts for a while.

By the Numbers

Right now, our classes are a bit small (our school is designed to accommodate more students as the year goes on – immigration trends don’t really follow a calendar). My classes currently range from 14 to 16 (though the class of 16 has a few students who aren’t showing for a variety of reasons). There are generally about 10 students who speak Spanish and 4-5 students who speak another language (Chinese, Tagalog, Urdu, Vietnamese, Russian). In contrast to last year (when we had significantly fewer non-Spanish speaking students), this encourages our students to speak more English and develop more of a sense of empathy for other students. We hope.

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