Week 1 – Less Stress Than I’m Used To

Week 1 – Less Stress Than I’m Used To

Last year I read a few blogs from folks who were reflecting everyday in the classroom.  I thought a more manageable amount for myself would be a weekly update and reflection.  Will hopefully stick with this as the year continues and will probably be more successful if I recognize that every post doesn’t have to be a world-class entry.


First weeks of school are sometimes the most stressful.  When I was a 5th grade teacher, I was quite a disciple of the Harry Wong ‘First Days of School’ philosophy of the first day being the most important.  I think it’s important, but I remember reading in one of Rafe Esquith’s books about how the first day is important, but not really any more important than the second or third.  Also, being the 6th and 7th grade math teacher, half of my students had me last year so I felt there was not as much of that first day ‘who is this teacher, what will my year be like, what are the expectations’ sort of feelings.

I still went through a few policies and procedures and am spending the first week going through the Week of Inspirational Math lessons from YouCubed to set the tone for a rich, inquiry-based math classroom.  They’ve been going super well.  Here are some of the math norms students developed in each class and below is a picture of them working on the Four 4’s activity:



On top of that, this was one of the first years I didn’t feel I had to reinvent the wheel.  When I taught 5th grade for three years, it was an International Baccalaureate school and your year is broken up in to 6 main themes.  We sort of rewrote all the curriculum each year being that we didn’t want to recycle poor lessons.  Each year felt like we were teaching new stuff (and it didn’t help that these were the transition years into the STAAR test).  Last year I sort of developed the skeleton of what I wanted to teach in my two classes and this year I’m trying to make those lessons richer, which is still a lot of work, but I feel I have a good starting point.  I spent a lot of time curating quality resources from Dan Meyers 3-Act Problems, resources from YouCubed, and a few other bloggers in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#mtbos).  Here’s my Evernote year-at-a-glance for 6th grade math and Pre-Algebra.


I’m excited about my classroom economy this year as well.  In a nutshell, students have class jobs to make money and use money to pay rent on their desks and buy items in a monthly auction.  Last year was my first year doing it and it was constantly being modified (due to many banker/client transactions on payday and bonus day taking so much class time).  Halfway through the year last year, I moved to an artificial online banking system which streamlined A LOT of things (direct deposit, automatic rent withdrawals, etc).  Having that resource from the beginning this year will save so much class time.  Also students always get super stoked about applying for jobs and making “money.”  Here’s a list of some of my classroom jobs and the job application they fill out.


In my advisory, I made a ‘Dear World…’ video that I like to do in the beginning of the year.  I tell the students: “In 5 words or less, complete the following sentence- Dear World…”  It’s pretty cool to see what they come up with.  It’s inspired by the ‘Dear World‘ project by Robert Fogarty.

It wasn’t until after I made the video that I saw that there are 3 rules for what to write in your message:

I plan on incorporating that next time for even richer messages 🙂


Next week I plan on giving some Pre-Assessments to my classes.  I want to give them the pre-assessment on paper and have them give SOME kind of answer, even if they’re unsure.  I will then give them the right answers without telling them why those are the right answers.  They’ll mark which ones they miss and fill out a Google Form that says which ones they missed (gives me a quick snapshot of which problems are outliers- either most got them right or most got them wrong).  I’ll then give them 10 – 15 minutes to use their peers or the internet to figure out why they missed the ones they missed.  The pre-assessment won’t be for a grade, but a way to get a feel for where the students are out, expose them to all the material up front, and give them an opportunity for self-generated learning.  I’ll share how it goes once we do it.

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

Related Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: