Every good teacher knows that you need to spend a good amount of time teaching procedures, rules, and expectations at the beginning of the year. This common practice just helps to fend off problems later in the year. My school district does not provide a common set of science textbooks to our science department. Yeah, we have class sets that we can share, but each student does not have their own book. This is where Interactive Science Notebooks (ISNs) become very useful! To help students take ownership of their ISN and take good care of it, we spend a day during the first few days of school decorating the cover. I provide various supplies (stickers, colored paper, patterned paper, stencils, art supplies, etc.) to allow students to define a cover to their preferences. I provide 4 rules:
1. You may only decorate the front and back covers
2. You must have your NAME on the front cover.
3. All designs must be flat (2-dimensional).
4. Keep artwork and wording appropriate for school.
Before getting started, I show an example of my designed front cover to give them a starting point.
This activity also breaks up the monotony of the first days of school...rules and procedures, over and over! I would like to do the personalization the very first day of school, but this often doesn't work out because not everyone has purchased their supplies.
The very first day of school is spent on behavior expectations. (I also assign students to get a composition notebook and folder if they have not yet done so.) I provide the expectations for my class, but in a roundabout way, I let them think they came up with them. We complete a chart paper activity where students use post-it notes to fill in 4 categories. Students need to post 3 ideas on 4 ideas:
A great classmate...
4. Is Not:
After all students have stuck their ideas to the poster, we sort them by common ideas and discuss what the mean together. On the 2nd day, we discuss the common ideas that all classes had, and our expectation are created.
Our 2nd activity for the 1st and 2nd day of school is establishing group expectations. The nature of great science education requires lots of partner and group activities. To be successful, these groups need to be well-managed, so at the beginning of the year, we create a poster, using GROUPS as a mnemonic, to establish our expectations. I split the class into groups-1 group per letter. Each group comes up with a word or phrase using that letter to state how group work should look in our class. I collect these from each class, then on the 2nd day we put the ideas together from each class an come up with one great mnemonic. As with the first activity, I then create a poster to refer to in class.
Now, to be sure the rules are not lost and forgotten, copies of these with an accompanying activity with be added to the ISN.