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Flip the First Day

Ah, the first Day. As a student or as a teacher we all know about the first day.  Usually this means going over rules, syllabus, and other guidelines.  I began to think about the first day and thought, “If I want my students to come to class prepared, then why on the first day of classes do I stand in front of them telling them every thing?  Shouldn’t the first day be what models how the semester is going to be?  Isn’t there some thing about how first impressions are the most important?”  So, after marinating on that thought this is what I decided to do on the first day.

  1. First I passed out an index card.  Before hand, I wrote the numbers 1-30 on the back of the cards and shuffled them up.  I had students write down basic information about them and some other fun stuff, such as “Write down one lie and one truth about yourself but don’t tell me which is which.”
  2. Next I told students that now you will get in groups of three such that the sum of the numbers of the back of your cards is divisible by three. (We quickly went over the divisibility rule of three.  Students were able to form  groups pretty quickly. I would say about two minutes.)
  3. Next I told them to get into groups of four, such that if I were to pick any three members of the group their sum is not divisible by three. (This took a bit longer about four minutes.)
  4. Finally, I told them to get into groups of five such that if I pick any three members of the group their sum in not divisible by three.  (I gave them about two minutes before telling them that to form such a group would be impossible.)

During this exercise, students were using Socrative (socrative.com check it out) to share what their group numbers were.  I have the overhead projecting socrative and this allowed me to point out some patterns, such as “Will three consecutive numbers be divisible by three? Can three prime numbers be divisible by three.”  I did not tell them why you can always find three number whose sum is three from a group of five numbers.  Again, trying to model that some ideas take time.  Hopefully, some students will come to class saying, “I figured it out.”

Once students were back in their seat, around 35 minutes of class had passed.  I told them, “Notice how I did not start the class by going over the syllabus and me telling you every thing.  This is a model for how this class will be run.  I expect you to come to class prepared and ready with questions.”  Yada, yada, yada, the speech went on a bit more.  I will see how many actually go and look at the syllabus and everything else in Blackboard.  Regardless, I am happy with how I set the learning environment on day one.

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