At our school, we have 2 semesters and some of our classes change. Math is a year long course, however, my class periods change and my students change. Some stay with me and some leave. This year I had a lot of changes with 71% of students being new. This is challenging because I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the school year trying to build relationships, getting to know the students, and trying to create a safe classroom through activities. However, once January 28th comes, we are in the middle of a math unit and there is not much time for these activities.
But, this year I made time and on day 2, it is already paying off plenty.
In each of my classes, I greeted them with an index card. I asked them to write their name on the card and if their birthday is between now and the end of school, write that. If their birthday is in the summer, write their half birthday, but if their birthday or half birthday has already gone by, write a random date. Interestingly, kids picked "1/2 birthday as February 30th" and "random date as February 29th". hmmm. Anyways, I will hang them by the week on my birthday poster. We are not allowed to have food in the classroom, so in the past, it has just been hanging there and I say Happy Birthday. This year, I started doing "Walk In' Songs on their birthdays. It is a decent amount of work and I have to be prepared but I am loving it and so are the kids, so I would say it is worth it and I will continue it next year.
I ask the kids to complete a Math and Me Survey as homework on Desmos. It asks them how they feel about math in general. It has them do 2 marbleslides to play with that. It asks them if math were an animal, what would it be and why. They have to draw on the key pad with their finger and I have some pretty artistic students. Here are three of their responses.
I ask what they prefer to be called and their pronoun. And, I ask if there is anything else I need to know in order to help teach them. Mind you, we started yesterday. I read through some of them today and already have learned so much about students I have had since September and students brand new to me. One student asked specifically not to be seated next to another student in groups. I will respect that. Another students expressed how bad they feel at geometry and they just aren't getting it and are worried about being too slow and falling even more behind and could I check in with them individually. Yes, good to know. One student phonetically spelled his name so I can practice pronouncing it. One student who I have had all year wrote "I have felt more comfortable in math this year." Bless their heart. Another two students told me they need to be near the front so they can see. Duh, helpful, but I might not have known if I didn't ask.
In this, I also ask for their Walk in Birthday song. Then, I have a google doc going and each week, I pull out the birthday and record what their song is and I play as they come into class. They get so excited when they hear the music, "Whose birthday is it?" I am learning a lot of new, pretty cool music. But, there is also funny old music, like of course, Africa, by Toto. Today I got Jenny 867-5309. Hey, that's my song, how did they know. Kids are funny.
I also looked pretty amazing yesterday in class as I was handing a former student whom I now have again her index card and asked her to write her birthday down. I said, "Wait, your birthday is May 16th." Oooh, the class was amazed. Another student whom I have had all year long, says jokingly, "Well, you play favorites." I said, "Well, yours is May 20th." Boom! Nailed it. Class was shocked again. I am getting older and my memory is going, but I surprised them. Please don't tell them I remembered May 16th because it's my Dad's birthday and May 20th because it is my son's birthday. And, then about a month ago, I have one twin, J, and last year, I had his twin brother, M, in class. I don't have M anymore but he has math in the class next to mine. I had J's 1/2 birthday song pulled up for class that day, so I surprised M as he walked into his own math class and I said, "Happy 1/2 Birthday." He said, "Wow, I can't believe you remembered that." Love it.
I also had kids do the Name Tents again. I do it at the beginning of the year in order to learn new names. I want them to get thinking about noticing and wondering so I have them do that in September. This time around, during second semester, I have them do new Name Tents so I can learn new names, but I do funny stuff - like if Math were a food, what would it be, If Math got a tattoo, what would it be, If Math had a theme song, what would the chorus be.
I am also having them do a class escrapbook. I open a google slide show and make my own slide - like a scrapbook. I add pictures of my family and information about myself and then I email them and invite them to make a slide about them. I have done this for the past few years and it is one of my favorite things. I don't do this at the beginning of the year. I like to save it for the new semester so it can be fresh and new. And, it is a quick, outside of the classroom thing to do. I do show it in class too. I learn so much about my students I have had all year and my new students.
I can't wait to learn more as I read their responses in Desmos, read their name tents, and see their ebooks.