* 6-12 all girls independent school
* 1:1 laptop school (starting this year)
* 16 students in each class
* 4 desks of 4 students each
* 4 classes of 6th grade
* 50 minute period 3 days a week, one 75 minute period per week (staggered by class)
* most all students have (so far as I can tell at this point) relatively strong, but varying math background
* most students have very strong reading/writing skills
* every student has a (so far) positive feelings towards school
Cushy, I know. I very much understand and appreciate the challenges that I don't have to face (large transient classes, different home languages, severe learning differences, unstable families, etc). That being said, I am confident that this lesson would work in any classroom because 2 years ago I did a similar first day lesson in a very very different school; it was probably the best lesson of that year.
We were on a special first day schedule so I saw each class for 60 minutes.
Introductions: names and something you enjoy outside of school (5 minutes)
The Desk Problem: Look at the people you are now sitting with. In a short while, I am going to give you 5 minutes to get up, talk, strategize, and rearrange yourselves so that everyone is sitting with as many new people as possible. I'll then ask each person individually how many new people they are sitting with. If you're sitting with 2 new people, you get 2 points. 3 new people, 3 points. I'll then add up all the points and that's your class score. Let's see if you can beat my other classes.
This was inspired by a boat problem that I don't remember the details of involving fisherman sharing boats with different people every day of the week.
I tend to assume kids are going to figure things out faster than they actually do, but every one of my groups surprised me on this one and within 30 seconds figured out that one person from each table needed to go to 1 of the 4 tables. After congratulating everyone on their success and talking a little about different methods of getting the 48 points, we brainstormed ways to "tweak" the problem in order to make it more challenging. Some of the ideas:
- Winning class is the class to get 48 points as quickly as possible.
- Changing the number of people, tables and/or chairs at each table.
- Conducting multiple rounds where you only score points for people you've never sat with.
- Forcing every person to change tables
Breaking the code: I then gave a few short directions for quality group work (everyone's contributing, everyone's voice being heard, and not making any decisions without everyone understanding and being on board, no questions for me unless it was a question everyone had) and handed this out with no further directions. They worked on this for the remainder of the period.
Some notable observations:
- no table asked "What are we supposed to do?"
- no table complained "We haven't learned how to do this."
- every table eventually asked "Do we have to decode the whole thing?" which led to some variation of the following conversation:
Me: When do you think it would be fair to say you're done?
Them: When we figure out the code for every letter?
Me: Sounds good to me.
- Every student was engaged until the end of class
- Not every table did a great job of following the rules of group work
Great first day! See you tomorrow.