How I Start Class Each Day

For the past 25 years, my class would start the same way each day. The bell would ring. Then, silence.

I didn’t explicitly ask students to be silent or give them a signal requesting silence. They would be silent because that’s what we did. In our silence we let go of what happened before class. After a few moments of communal peace and quiet, I greeted my students and we started our time together. It usually took about ten seconds.

But in 2020, ten seconds of silence wasn’t enough.

My students were experiencing trauma and they needed something more. So I looked around twitter, found this, and it has been my only constant in a year filled with turmoil and change.

Here’s what it looks like.

Step 1

In Zoom I hit “share screen” and start our Song of the Day. What’s the Song of the Day? Well, it’s a song that I think goes well with what we are doing for the day, or a song that I think we all need to hear. Here are a few examples:

The Song of the Day plays while I drop the PearDeck link in the Zoom chat and students work on completing the “self-paced” PearDeck. Often I will give a little background on the artist, or group and/or talk about the lyrics. To me, modern music is poetry and starting an English class every day with a poem is a good thing. Words matter. Art matters. Music matters.

“Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.” – Haruki Murakami

This semester I created a Google Survey Form to allow students to share their own ideas for the Song of the Day. Here’s what the form looks like:

Step 2: The Daily Attendance PearDeck

Students tell me that just seeing the above slide and reading it helps them focus.

This slide is SOOOO crucial. I don’t have time to check every day, but I check the results often. I can quickly see which of my students are struggling that day. I put together a Canvas inbox message checking in and seeing what’s going on. It’s one message, but it sends as individual messages. Then I can follow-up and start an individual thread for students that need it. Often students will tell me that were just having a bad morning, but it has, on many occasions, led to some important discussions and follow-up steps. I wish I could get this data over an entire month or semester from PearDeck. That would be amazing.

Then there is a fun “Would You Rather” slide. If you’d like a bunch of them, so you don’t have to create your own, I created a Google Slide Deck with Would You Rather Slides. You can copy it and use it in your own class.

Attendance at Fountain Valley High School actually has THREE choices now: 1. Remote; 2. At school face-to-face; and 3. Supposed to be at school but opting to learn from home for the day (Purple). Students drag the corresponding box over their name so I can quickly mark them absent or present in Aeries. Occasionally for some reason this doesn’t record correctly and I haven’t been able to figure out why, but it’s usually perfect.

This slide is also fantastic. The only bummer about this slide is that I would respond to students in the teacher dashboard but I had no clue that they weren’t seeing my replies. I did this for MONTHS without knowing this. Ugh. I wish when I replied that it would send the reply to their student email. Please make this happen, PearDeck!

This semester we are doing drawing/art activities instead of “Would You Rather” draggable slides. Here’s what one looks like:

According to my student surveys, students really appreciate any art activities in class. It helps them setting settle their mind and soul. Student survey results also say indicate that they appreciate consistency. So, while I love throwing my students a curveball and being random or unexpected, for this year I will continue this peaceful practice.

I want to experiment with other ideas for this attendance slide deck and start to design my own attendance slide deck. When I do, I’ll link it below.

I would love to hear your own ideas for how you start class each day. Please share them in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “How I Start Class Each Day

  1. Thank you for this! I attended a workshop with you quite a few years ago during a Family Consumer Science conference. I have been on your mailing list since that time. I appreciate how you relate to the students and make real world connections, even when times are challenging. Thank you for sharing your magic!

    Liked by 1 person

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