Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First Day of School: sample student surveys, parent letters and more

With the first day of school rapidly approaching, I wanted to share the materials I have for the first day of school. I've always spent an inordinate amount of time creating, editing and tweaking these documents over the years, and I'm still not satisfied.

In any case, I have enclosed two versions of the documents I give to students on the first day of school (from this year and last).
  • Sample Parent Letter 1: This packet from last year includes a syllabus, parent letter (in English and Spanish) and parent survey. All of these documents were heavily influenced by examples and training from Teach for America--notice the rigid ladder of consequences, fun jargon like learning choices, and the awful Spanish translation of my parent letter. The parent survey (borrowed from my good friend Dave, maybe the best teacher I've ever met) does a great job of reaching out to parents to get them invested in their child's education.
  • Sample Student Survey 1: Culled from ideas and examples from the web and what I wanted to know, I pared a long list of questions last year down to the most relevant ones for me. My favorite is: "Do you think you're smart?" I've found over the years my students in the RGV have very little confidence in their intelligence and ability to meet the challenges I put before them. I believe all of my students are capable of doing whatever I give them, and so this question is the beginning of a fight to build my students back up. I also love to know about their extracurricular activities so I can follow their exploits and attend games whenever possible.
  • Sample Student Survey 2: When I edited this survey this summer, I made sure everything in there answered the question: "What do I really need to know to best help them learn?" I included a student contact information "card" at the end to save myself from the hassle of the actual index card I used to use. I slashed the schedule in favor of only my 2 conference periods (so I know where I can find them when I need to pull them out). I added the 4 yes/no/maybe questions because I realized over the course of last year that too many of my students would have answered "no" to all 4.
On the first day, my students will already have seats assigned when they walk in, and they'll work on Student Survey 2 and look over Parent Letter 2 after they find their seat. We'll discuss expectations and I'll give them a tour of the room--where to keep notebooks, find assignments, the classroom library (thank you to everyone who donated items), what to do with the "kickoff" (aka "Do Now"), etc to make procedures and norms very clear right away.

I would like to also incorporate something really interesting and engaging this year--a PowerPoint presentation, video, or maybe I'll just break out my guitar and sing a song about math (last year, I wrote and sang Domain and Range to the tune of Irreplacable by Beyonce). I don't have much time, but I work well under pressure and will come up with something. Alternately we may just start diagnostic testing, but I'd rather wait on that.

I hope you've found these materials useful!