Finally Feeling Good About Week 1

Since the beginning of my career six years ago I’ve always felt awkward about what I do in Week 1.  I started with the usual boring stuff:  course outlines, review assignments, and/or some sort of other diagnostic to see where student understanding was to start out the school year.  I soon realized that there were more important things to attend to:

  • Building relationships with students
  • Building norms via well-chosen problems to get students to feel and need the norms
  • Feeding students the truth about math as much as possible

I have always been one who values the intangible over the tangible and being proactive over being reactive.  It sounds like a great idea to start off straight away with your regular stuff so students know you mean business, but I’m just not bought into that.  I have never before gotten any different results in the things that I really wanted to see changed by doing that.  Back then, kids who started out with false beliefs or ideas about what it means to do math kept them and how quickly I started into things didn’t do anything to change that.  What I have gotten results from has been the slow focus over the last few years on those things listed above.  They aren’t easily measurable or gradable, but one thing I know for sure is that in the last few years I have adjusted my Week 1 to the intangibles and I have started to see lasting results throughout the year.


I thought I’d take this space to share a bit about how my vision of Week 1 is shaping up.   I like using the entire first week to work on group tasks to really get the feel for what we should expect of each other.  I aim to choose tasks that aren’t just made easier by working with others but rather require the use of them.  I don’t want particularly difficult tasks, just curious and interesting ones.  Each day we will focus on two of the TARMADs.  At the beginning of class we will discuss which ones we will focus on and what they mean.  During the task I will walk around the groups and take notes on how each group is using those particular TARMADs.  We will come together at the end and discuss how things went.  Students will be assigned a group randomly using a deck of cards each day of the first week, and every Monday during the remainder of the year.  This will help get to know one another and get immediate experience working with different types of people.  They will write about this at the end of the week as their first journal entry.  Here are the days and TARMADs covered for each.


Day 1:  Collaborator

Day 2:  Tinkerer and Mistake Maker

Day 3:  Pattern Seeker and Model Maker

Day 4:  Rose Smeller and Conjecturer

Day 5:  Author


The next week we go through course outlines, Bloom’s Taxonomy with testing (SBG), and taking notes.  I more or less followed through with this this year (we are going into week three now), but as I was writing I updated some things that I would have liked to do better this year.  Each year I’m seeing great things happen!  I want to continue to build my task library for this first week especially.


On a side note, I’m super excited because I designed posters for the TARMADs and TARSADs and now they are up in my room!  I also had a new bulletin board idea that sprung up in my meanderings online somewhere (sorry, I forgot where but thanks to whoever gave me the idea).  It’s the Take What You Need board, covered in sticky notes with encouraging messages.  I’ll admit that I had my worker make it since she’s got much better handwriting than I do (and I don’t draw hearts very well).  I’ve since had a few kids tell me how meaningful it is, which makes me really happy (:


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