First Days

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How do teachers build a learning community right from Day One?

Every teacher has strategies for starting the year so the classroom is filled with learning and is positive, welcoming, encouraging, and flowing.

What are your strategies?

Would it be helpful to share particular strategies we use to start the year?

Today, I read a tweet about the beginning of the year — how each teacher starts in a different way.

I remember a few years ago I read an idea about a collaborative seating activity from Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz that helps us work together, collaborate, converse with clear and positive dialogue, and share feedback. Right away it starts us building a community of learners, developing our guidelines and protocols together without a dreary rundown of rules meant for compliance. Instead, it allows for students to own their learning and behavior, developing together the protocols for our classroom.

As part of a blogging challenge, I described in detail that process for my “First Days,” which, of course, is tweaked each year: First Days Part 1.  Then I explained the pedagogy for those first days, including connections to effective classroom strategies according to John Hattie: First Days Part 2 By the Numbers.

One of the “tweaks” includes that picture above. After our initial days of conversation and setting our guidelines for working together, I asked students to reflect on their personal take on our collaboration. Each student created a symbol of working together and a motto for themselves built from letters of their names.

Note: Actually, the names are pseudonyms: to protect student privacy since many choose to publish their work, each student chose “code names” from their real names. So Robert Smith might choose the name Romi.

Another blogging challenge last year asked for a reflection on instruction, organization, and planning. I wrote about the pedagogy behind each of those, to build a learning community where students have voice and choice in their learning: Pedagogy.

It’s important to reflect on the WHY we teach the way we do and share the WHY and the HOW, knowing that each class of students is different and that each year will require a reflection and tweaking of our strategies for engaging students in a learning community where learning is theirs.

Teaching is a holistic process — so much happens every second, and teachers are continuously aware of the nuances that bring learning forward. So connected to First Days, relationships, and community are ideas for further engaging students, including feedback, choice, and use of technology to enhance our paths to learning:

What drives your First Days?

What are the pedagogy and the strategies in your classroom to engage students and build the relationships that make for a positive and active learning community on your First Days?

Perhaps we could share our knowledge with the hashtag #FirstDays


I would like to thank the following for encouraging teachers to continuously reflect on teaching and learning:

CLmooc: a PLN of connected reflection that began with the National Writing Project— #clmooc

Alec Couros and #ETmooc

George Couros. The Innovator’s Mindset. Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. Dave Burgess Consulting 2015 Kindle Edition. #immooc

Margaret Simon’s blogging challenge. Read more here

Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz

Penny Christensen #8weeksofsummer

My previous school district, colleagues, and students [I’m retired; here’s their new website]

Cross-posted at 1DR

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