It may be due to the fact that there are such a plethora of great ideas that I tend to stick with what I've always done. I'm all about growth and change, but there's something about this activity that speaks to me and keeps me coming back to it year after year. It's not an amazingly great activity. It's pretty simple, actually. And it came from my first year teacher self's desire to "NEVER WASTE A DAY!" Get them talking about and doing math from Day 1!
So here's...for the most part...what I've always done since my first day of teaching (with 1 major exception. This year I'm using name tents which I've never done before. Thanks Sara VanDerWerf for the inspiration!)
1. When students come in, I'll have them make a name tent and they can decorate it however they want...doesn't have to be mathy.
2. While they're working on their name tents I tell them we're going to have a little competition. I want them to predict how many names I'm going to get phonetically wrong. I do this for 1 major reason...not all students feel comfortable telling their teacher they're wrong...but when it's made in to a game at the least their friends will speak up for them! I'm sure to write the phonetic spelling of their name on the roster so I get it right the rest of the year (hopefully).
3. Then we play a game called "Numbers About Me" or "My Numbers" (I think the name changes every year.) I put 4-5 numbers up on the board and tell the students "These numbers say something about me."
Last year I used 4, 1/3, 602, 36.25 and 54,000.
Then I let the kids guess what they think these numbers mean or represent about me. I love this part. It really lets me see how kids view numbers. We use numbers in so many ways in our lives (values, identification, ages, etc...) it gets them thinking about all the different representations. After some guesses (some are pretty wild) I show them 1 descriptor...for example, "My age" and they guess which number that belongs to. Then I give them another and continue the process. I don't tell them if they're right or wrong until the end.
By the way...here are the other descriptors:
The amount of time in a day I am asleep
Area code of my cell phone number
Approximate number of miles on my car
The number of people who live in my home
4. The rest of the class period (we have early release on the first day, so there's not much time) I let the students create their own set of numbers. I ask that the use at least 1 non whole number. We'll spend a few minutes each day through the week for students to get up and share their numbers until everyone's had a chance to go.
And that's it! It's not the most fabulous thing anyone has ever done...and I'd probably be smart to try something else sometime. But, the kids always talk about how much they enjoy it...and they LOVE having the opportunity to be able to get up and present their numbers to the class which I find surprising sometimes...but that probably comes with the comfort-ability students feel going to school at a K-8...just like I feel comfortable with this first day activity.
So my big ideas about the first day of school are:
1. It's never too early to have the kids start thinking about math in math class
2. It's so incredibly important that we learn to say our kids' names correctly!
Oh, and my favorite moment about the activity is when (no fail) a student suggests that I have $54,000 in my bank account...ahhh to be able to dream like a 12 year old!