As we’re gearing up for another year, I’ve been thinking about how I can change my lessons in the first week of school to be more engaging for students, while still reinforcing management and practicing procedures for my classroom.
During the first week of school, I aim to develop classroom community, get to know my students, present my policies/ procedures, practice procedures, reinforce the behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate in my classroom, introduce myself to students, and invest students in reading/writing. These are no small tasks; they require deliberate planning and seamless execution. Perhaps this is why I spend more time planning my first few weeks of school that most other lessons I teach throughout the year.
This clear juxtaposition of goals means I need to deliberately plan how I can keep activities simple and easy to manage while opening my students’ hearts and minds to the magic of reading and writing. One cornerstone of my first week with students is learning more about them & getting information I can integrate into my teaching practice for the rest of the year. Most teachers achieve this aim through a straight forward student questionnaire. By middle school, student anticipate a survey coming their way during the first week from most teachers.
Students are all too accustomed to surveys, like the ones pictured above, during the first week of school.
While the data from student surveys is crucial for teachers, I know many of my students felt it a nuisance to complete. This became increasingly evident in the cynical tone of their responses (example pictured left). This year, I’m changing up the way I give my student survey in the hope of getting more meaningful responses from students. I also wanted to up student engagement during my first week back, but I know engagement often means activities, student groupings, or multi-step directions. I wanted to create an activity with an illusion of freedom that was actually highly structured.
I decided on a variation of a classroom game favorite: SCOOT.
Scoot is a silent game where students each have a Scoot Card with empty boxes to fill in for each question. Before school starts, you take the question cards to each desk (or seat) in your room. Students complete one question per minute starting with the desk they are seated at. When you turn the lights off, each student moves one seat to the right until they’ve answered all questions. This game is completed silently and independently. In the past, I’ve used Scoot when reviewing for state tests in a multiple-choice format. I’ve often had a central foci of the game like determining the distractor in the question when I was aiming to work on test strategies.
I think Scoot is a perfect format for getting to know students during the first week of school for 5 key reasons.
1. Scoot creates mystery.
Students love trying out new games and activities. Telling your students they are going to play a new game so you can get to know them will impart excitement… and a little mystery about what this game may be. Many students had never played Scoot before entering my room; they were eager to learn the rules and try the game out.
2. Back to School Scoot elicits more meaningful and intentional reflection.
Students typically rush to finish surveys and move on with their day. Using Back to School Scoot ensure all students finish at the same time and spend equal time on all questions. It’s easy to spot when a student finishes a question early during the game, and a gentle prompt to elaborate or expand on an answer feels natural.
3. Students are in a race against the clock in Scoot.
Students become very invested in playing silently, even going as far as encouraging neighbors to remain silent. They love transitioning as quickly as possible. They frantically write until the last second because they know they’re in a race against the clock. The very conditions of the game entice students to write more and think more meaningfully. This sets up a new set of conditions for eliciting meaningful information about students.
4. Scoot reinforces classroom procedures & your killer management.
Scoot is a simple game. It’s also an easy game to implement in your classroom because it is silent and students are up and moving for a few seconds at a time & move a few feet each round. This is a highly structured and simple transition. It’s critical during the first weeks of school to strengthen your management by focusing on flawless procedures in your classroom.
Students can also see through practicing procedures for the sake of practicing procedures. If you have a purpose for practicing and re-doing procedures, students have a more positive outlook on whatever you are doing. Scoot allows you to practice silently standing up, transitioning to a new seat, and getting started working 24 times in one class. If students don’t get it right, have students do it again until 100% of your class does it the way you’ve asked. Back to School Scoot allows you to practice procedures with purpose over power; this will instantly increase student respect.
5. Back to School Scoot sets you up to use the game as a cornerstone for reviewing content throughout the year.
Scoot is a game I rely on throughout the year. When your students understand the procedures for the game, it’s a seamless part of your classroom culture and learning techniques. During the first week of school, students are eager to please and are more willing to practice procedures. If you can effectively manage Back to School Scoot, using it again will be a breeze.
Get Back to School Scoot featuring 24 ready to print task cards + student Scoot boards in Middle School Writer’s Teachers Pay Teachers Store for $2.00.