First Week Reflections for the 2017-2018 School Year

Where Did Those Two Weeks Go? First Week Reflection and Second Week Update


It doesn't seem right that the school year is already heading into week three. I wanted to take a moment to pause as we approach the end of week two, and to take the time to reflect on how the first two weeks of school have gone. The goals for the first two weeks involves setting foundations, establishing systems, building community, and getting know to know each other in Writing Lab 615. There have been highs, mids, and lows in these two weeks. I am teaching on the split team this year. This means that I have two sections of General English 6, two sections of Advanced English 6, and one section of Advanced English 7. 


Before I jump into my reflections, here are the day-to-day breakdowns:

Tuesday, 9/5: Half Day

This was the very first day. We didn't really get to see students because there was a 10 minute schedule rotation. My first hour took a tour and received critical paperwork. 

Wednesday, 9/6: First Full Day & Syllabus

Today was the first official day! Students got their syllabus, and we started basic expectations. I had them do a syllabus scavenger hunt in small groups first, and then we went over the answers together. Students started class with a 4 corners activity. I had them stand up to STRONGLY AGREE, AGREE, DISAGREE AND STRONGLY DISAGREE to these four questions:

  1. I am so excited to be back at school!

  2. I absolutely love to read.

  3. I hate writing no matter what!

  4. I had a fantastic summer.

I also like to use the activity when I am starting an argumentative essay unit or having a class debate. It gets them up and moving. They ended class with practicing the turn-in process. 

Thursday, 9/7: Finish Expectations

Students started today with a community building activity called Find Someone Who. They got to get up and move around the room. We finished notes on expectations and learned how to do a John Collins type 1 writing. This was perfect to lead into covering cafeteria expectations (the area of the building assigned to all ELA teachers for PBIS). I was excited about getting up to move around, but not so excited about finishing expectations. This work is needed, but it is tedious. 

September-October Welcome Screens Fall 2017.jpg
September-October Welcome Screens Fall 2017 copy.jpg

Friday, 9/8: Picture Day, Class Meetings,...AH!

Friday was crazy. We had class meetings and picture day. Only one camera man showed up for the whole building...let's just say plans got thrown off. Students signed on to Google Classroom for the first time and completed a Reading Interest Survey. This would help with library planning for the next week. Students who were in class long enough got to complete the very first Friday Free Write and get their creative writing journals. We rocked out to some music while getting creative. 


Monday, 9/11: Introduction to the Article of the Week

Today we learned how to do an Article of the Week! We started with a Mindset Monday Warm Up, and then we jumped right in to an example article. Sixth graders learned how to do annotation and write their thinking down on the article. This word was said out loud and repeated in a call and response format. They rocked it out. Seventh graders got a hint introduction to critical theory in what I am calling "advanced annotation" a.k.a. Critical Theory. I use this question grid and will plan on including a post soon on use of Critical Theory in the middle school ELA classroom. 

September-October Welcome Screens Fall 2017 copy 4.jpg
September-October Welcome Screens Fall 2017 copy 5.jpg


Tuesday, 9/12 and Wednesday, 9/12: Stations

I was so happy with this activity. I had my pre-interns this week helping out, and considering this was all data collection it went great. What I mean by data collection is that I was specifically looking for student movement, student collaboration, and initiative to get a task done. These three areas determine the outcomes in the Writing Lab for the rest of the year. They matter. 

The Stations:

  1. Binder Assembly: I had students get a binder, put dividers in the binder, and then paste tabs on their binders to match. Read about this process in here.

  2. Binder Cover: Students decorated their writing binders.

  3. GO PRO (PBIS) Cafeteria Expectations Review: I cut up 16 different problems that might arise in the cafeteria and students worked in pairs to establish cause and effect relationships.

  4. Goal Setting: Students set a personal goal, a behavioral goal, and an academic goal at their tables. We will revisit these at the end of the marking period.

  5. Annotation Practice Station: I found a great article about astronaut pee. Students got to practice some really awesome "think marks" or annotations on the article. This helped to reinforce Monday's lesson.

  6. Book Tasting: I got a chance to see the reader interest level of my students. Many students wanted to borrow books right away. This was helpful before our trip to the library on Thursday.

Seventh Grade Stations:

Seventh graders already knew how to annotate; however, I had just exposed them to the complex idea of reading through different lenses. I condensed the book assembly station to also include the cover. I then replaced station two with a social class article and reflection question activity. I also replaced the regular annotation station with a feminist/gender lens article with activity to get them thinking about gender roles. I plan on reinforcing this in our conversation on Friday when they turn in the Article of the Week. 

Warm-Ups: Tuesday we did a WOULD YOU RATHER QUESTION and Wednesday was Word Wednesday. Sixth graders had the word "annotate" and seventh graders had the word "critical."


Thursday, 9/13: Library Day!

This was their first trip the library. We opened with flow map notes on how to login to the computer after I introduced the students to the librarian. They got a tour and map of the library. The "highlights" of the library were outlined including: fiction, non-fiction, animals, drawing, sports, poetry, biographies, and where to check out/return books. I wanted this to be small group tours, but with class sizes so big it worked out better in my second hour of the day to do the tour as a whole group and put the notes up on the screen as I walked around to the different areas. 


Each week I want to be proud of my highs, critical of my Mids (areas where it was just okay), and mindful of my Lows. Here is the breakdown for the first two weeks.

High: Stations. Students got to move around. It took a ton of work to prepare. They enjoyed it in a way that I could tell without them telling me. Engagement was so high in most of the classes that I didn't even have to interject. I was a facilitator AND a teacher. 

Mid: Handling Stress and Paper. I felt like I was back to walking on a tight rope after this summer. I was immediately under a pile of paper and my goals this summer were to find a way out from under the piles. The piles are still adding up, and I need to develop systems before it becomes a bigger issue. 

Low: Chaos of Picture back up plan. I needed to have a better plan for a day like this. Often the days that catch us unprepared or the days where we are told that we "aren't teaching" are the days when we need to have a plan. This was a good growing moment to reflect on the idea of a back-up plan. 

Writing Mindset Reflection: How are the first two weeks of school going? What are your highs? mids? lows?