Syllabus? More like SILLYabus.

First day of school should be fun and exciting for both students and teachers! It’s a fresh new start for everyone! However, it can often be boring having to go over rules and procedures for the classroom as well as the syllabus. For students, they have 7+ classes where they’re being talked at by their teachers all day long. Then, they have so many different rules and procedures they have to remember for each of their classes, it can be a bit overwhelming. This year, let’s change that and do something more fun and memorable! With one of these ideas, you’re guaranteed to be the one teacher that your students go home and tell their parents about on their first day of school!

1. Scavenger Hunt

This is actually what I tried last year instead of talking at my students about the syllabus. (AND one of my coworkers actually made it up, so I can’t take all the credit. I just adapted it to Algebra 1 and my classroom space) Here’s how it worked:  I put little “blurbs” about expectations, rules, grading system and late work policy around my room in spots I wanted them to notice and pay attention to. Then each student got a piece of paper that had these same blurbs on them, but with some blanks where important information was missing. For example, the things I wanted students to have done BEFORE class started went above my supply table. The blurb said “Before your teacher starts teaching, you must make sure to sharpen your pencil, take out your notes from last class and ask any questions that apply only to you.” Then on their scavenger hunt worksheet, they’ll have this:

What are 3 things that should occur before your teacher starts teaching?

[Answer at “Need Supplies?” table]

  • __________________ your pencil
  • _________ ________ your notes from last class
  • Ask questions that apply __________ to ________

And then students will have to fill in the blanks based on the blurb AND they will know where the pencil sharpener and extra supplies are because they’re physically  standing next to them and reading about what supplies they’ll need to have before class starts. Want a copy of what I used last year? Download it here: Scavenger Hunt. [Note: this is specific to my classroom/school and grading policies and procedures so you’ll just want to use it as a starting place to go from!]

2. Stations 

I have used stations in my classroom for review activities and I LOVE them. So when I saw the idea to use stations as a way to go over the syllabus, I was all in. I have not actually done this in my classroom yet, but this is what I want to try this year! I originally saw this on Twitter, from Angelina Murphy HERE. This is not only a stations activity to go over the syllabus but also wraps in get to know you activities into the stations. Here’s how she set up her stations:

  • Station 1: Overview of the class expectations and content as well as an overview of the syllabus. What I like about her idea is that she also has a poster board here where students can write down any questions they still have about the syllabus to be answered by the teacher in front of the whole class at a later time. I think I want to do the same thing, but have them put their questions on post-its so that I can easily collect them after each class and still have a blank poster board or white board space for the next class and have all the questions in one spot just in case I don’t have time to address them all on the same day.
  • Station 2: This station has two tasks for students to complete while they’re here. Task one is to record themselves saying their preferred name. I REALLY like this idea because it will help me with pronunciation and to help me learn their names quickly. Angelina recommends doing this on Flipgrid which is an app that lets students record videos and then post them to your grid once you give them the URL. It’s free and easy to use! One downside to this is that students do need to register with either a microsoft or google account before they can do anything. Our school is a microsoft school, so hopefully that will make it easy to do! The second task for station 2 is to grab an index card and write out their name, preferred pronouns, what they’re most excited about for the year and what they’re nervous about for the year and anything else they might want me, as their teacher, to know about them. I’ll be sure to have a board/paper with prompts on it so students know the questions that I want them to answer. As far as the what they’re most excited/nervous about, I might make it open ended about the whole year, not just my math class. I am also going to have a question where they tell me about their relationship with math. I always want to know how students feel about math class before coming into my class.
  • Station 3: Name tent station. Angelina has them working on a name tent that they can use for the first few days of school so that the teacher can learn and remember their names easier. I LOVE this idea. I have never done name tents in my high school classroom (and now I’m kicking myself because it’s a great idea!). On the name tent, they’ll put their preferred name as well as some symbols that relate to them. They could be religious in nature, about their interests or hobbies. If time permits, they can share why they chose those specific symbols with the others currently at the station for them or that can be saved for another activity later in the first week to get to know the whole class better.
  • Station 4: Community agreement station. Instead of having the list of classroom rules all ready to go for students, this station creates a sense of ownership in the rules of the classroom. Students are able to share their input and will (hopefully) feel the need to follow the rules and be respectful if they have a say in the rules in the beginning. Angelina asks the question “How can we create a safe and empowering environment in our classroom?” and students are asked to be as specific as possible on what their needs are from both their teacher and their peers to be successful in the classroom. These expectations are written on a poster and then at the end of the day, all students sign it. The poster stays hung up in the classroom for the entire school year so students can reference it and add to it at any time they feel the need to!
  • Station 5: (not one of Angelina’s stations, but my own addition) When I Grow Up Station. This can be tied in with another station, but depending on how many students I have (my school is slated to be almost 150% capacity this year!) I may need to split them up more. At Target I found these signs for $5 and I wanted to incorporate them some way. (Get it here from Bullseye’s Playground aka the most dangerous spot in Target LOL)

There’s also a back to the sign which looks like this:

So cute! Obviously, I had to buy them. So in my last station, I’m going to have students fill out the “First day of” sign for them. Have them snap a picture of themselves holding the sign and then email it to me (or tweet it at me!). I will then do a collage of all of them and hang it up in my classroom somewhere so that we can compare them to the end of the year. As I get new students, I want to have them do it as well so I can add them to the wall so they don’t feel excluded!

3. Escape Room Syllabus

I haven’t tried this myself, nor have I heard of anyone trying it out, however, it looks really cool! There are a lot of templates for an escape room syllabus/first day activity on Teachers Pay Teachers (none of these belong to me!) for a variety of price points. The most popular one has getting to know you, supplies & resources riddle, syllabus close read and growth mindset quote puzzle for students to work through to learn the ins and outs of their new classroom and “escape” together. A lot of these are also editable so you can make it your own and include your own rules/procedures/supplies/resource cards so the students are getting relevant information! This is a fun, collaborative activity for students to get to know each other. It also allows for you, as the teacher, to walk around and see how well students work together without any direction or knowledge on how you expect them to work together in your classroom. This is a fun idea to incorporate in your classroom if you are planning on doing other escape room activities, as it gets them used to the activity without having to know actual content yet.

4. Have a scavenger hunt THROUGH the syllabus

This is something I saw from Conscious Teaching. Have a list of questions that are answered throughout the syllabus. Not just questions that are “What are Ms. Smith’s policies on bathroom use?” but instead questions like “Take the number of points you lose for turning in late work and double that. Then divide the total by 4. What number do you have?” This makes the drab task of sifting through the syllabus more fun, because now they are actively engaged with the material instead of just rewriting what you have written in your syllabus. Another fun question they list on their website is “Which of the following could most likely survive in the classroom based on the rules listed on page 1 in the syllabus- a gold fish, a DJ, a mime, or a monkey? The best answer is probably goldfish because water is the only drink allowed in class, but students might say mime because the mime would never talk out of turn.” This is a lot of fun because there’s really no right answer as long as a student can back it up with “evidence” from your syllabus. Using open ended questions like this, you can also learn more about your students and have meaningful and fun discussions about the syllabus without making it seem like work.

Have another great idea on how to make first day procedure and going through the syllabus less boring? Drop it in the comments or email me at contact@funwithalgebra.com with your ideas and I’ll add it to the post!

I hope you have an awesome first day and one of these ideas can make your classroom a little more fun when going over the first day things!

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