First Day Back (well, on 8/7)… HOLY CHEEEZITS.

I wanna start this blog post with a request: STAY ON MY BEHIND if I don’t blog. I always say, “I’m gonna do better!” And then two weeks into school I just give up because it’s just too insane: coaching robotics (B.E.S.T. and F.I.R.S.T.), sponsoring Mu Alpha Theta, attending volleyball games (my son thinks the girls are hot… he’s nine… YEAH, pray for me), high school and college football season (#SECbaby), grading, etc. I can think of 1,000 excuses. Harass me. Yell at me. CURSE me if you have to. Just MAKE me blog. I will love you for it… eventually.

I should also warn you that my A.D.D. is in OVERDRIVE and I’m currently working on lesson plans, watching “How to Train Your Dragon”and “Restaurant: Impossible”, and blogging. So if I change tense or topics or tracks in mid-sentence… Surely if you’re reading this YOU KNOW ME and I don’t have to warn you what you’re getting into, right?

The first day back was crazy, but I got a “good luck!” text from my BFF @druinok to start my day (LOVE HER!!!). This wasn’t my first “First Day” rodeo (my 14th year), but when you switch administrators AND new ones come in, you just really don’t know what you’re gonna get. Our seniors were supposed to “parade” to school, eat breakfast as a group, then go to class. And we all know they follow directions, right?


They brought cowbells to school and RAN around school for at least 20 minutes. Wouldn’t be too bad if we had a senior class of 100 or 200… or even 300. But we have almost 400. It was CRAZY. How crazy? I ran out of band-aids from the blisters they had (I’m like “mom” to most of them) from ringing their cowbells. At one point, 15 of them burst into my classroom SWEATY and chased me around the room to hug me (I’ve known most of them since they were 12). I’m sure my sophomore Alg2 class was quite confused to see me running around them in heels trying to escape. But 10th graders are still kind of scared the first day, so that worked to my advantage.

Anyway, I have 2 classes of 10th grade Algebra 2 and one class of regular statistics. I know we’re “supposed” to teach rules and procedures on day one, but I’ve just never done that. If you do, I’m not judging you whatsoever. We all have our “jam” for what works for us, and “shocking their brains” works for me. I mean, let’s face it – I’m a shock to deal with on my own. I think the mix of that and being forced to think on the first day just works for me.

So Algebra 2 started class by filling out an index card that I store in a box on my desk. I keep their textbook checkout form, parent communication, and tardies in that box. On the card, I ask them for their 3 favorite songs – my way of creating their class playlist. I also like to shock them with my multiple-music-personality-disorder. They’re shocked at what lyrics I can quote.

Then we move to “the folders”.

Each folder is a different color, which represents the different groups in my classroom. Colors make sense for my brain, so that’s how I roll. The kids are in groups of 3-4 (desks are already in groups when they get there), introduce myself, the course (in case they’re in the wrong class – it happens), and we start. “I’m about to hand you a color folder that corresponds to your group. This is your group color for the rest of the 9-weeks. The first person from your group to get to class every day will come to the front of the room and grab the group folder, but there’s a catch: First rule about the folders? We DO NOT open them until Mrs. Hedge says so. Second rule about folders? We DO NOT open them until Ms. Hedge says so. And the third and FINAL rule about folders? WE DO NOT open them FOR ANY REASON until Ms. Hedge says so.” Yeah, it’s a throwback to “Fight Club“. (I love that movie – don’t judge me.)
So here’s the view once they do open the folder:

Left side of the folder comes first – I would love to say I know where I got this and I might figure it out eventually.

I did figure it out –>HERE they are. I’ve misplaced a page during the crazy, so all 20 aren’t there.

BUT basically it was a set of 20 relationships (ex: height of a candle vs. time, gas used vs. time, etc.). The trick was that the graph included 3 possible functions to represent the relationship.

In groups, students had to highlight the function that they felt best represented that relationship. The discussion in their groups was AHMAHZHANG!!

I don’t answer questions unless it’s with another question (drives them NUTS). They debated and I made sure I used @misscalcul8’s “Two Nice Things” (from #TMC12) as a baseline for being rude when you disagree. This only took about 20 minutes, and then I had pairs of groups debate their choices for functions. As a group, we talked about the “tricky” functions. The one that got them was choosing the function to represent the speed of a dog while it took a nap. They wanted to say that I messed up by not giving them enough information. I just ask, “What makes you think that?” Then they’d say, “Because you didn’t give us a constant function.” I’d ask, “What makes you think that?” “Because you didn’t give us a horizontal line.” “What’s YOUR speed when YOU are asleep?” “Duh, it’s ze… oooohhhhhhh…. I gotcha.” Wink and a fist bump when they figured it out.

So once we finished (i.e., I got bored) with that, we moved to the right side of the folder.

I decided to combine Algebra 1 Bootcamp with @rdkpickle’s “sum of the squares” idea from #TMC12. I set up 3 sets for the next few days: (A) evaluate numeric expressions, (B) simplify algebraic expressions and (C) solve equations in one variable. If you haven’t seen her idea, basically you have 4 problems in 4 blocks and students write the sum of their answers in the circle in the middle. Here’s a VERY BASIC template. I gave those goofy cheap foil stars for awards for groups that finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They freaked out and fought over them (YES, high school kids LUV stickers!).

After they all finished sets A and B, I assigned each group a different problem and we talked about whiteboarding (shout out some love to my buddy, @fnoschese). They couldn’t process the idea at first. Them: “So you WANT us to work it WRONG?” Me: “Yes.” Them: “And it has to be a GOOD mistake?” Me: “I prefer GREAT ones, but we can start with good ones.” Them: “Is this a trick?” Me: “…..what makes you say that?” Them: “Geeeeez, Ms.Hedge… OK! OK! OK!” –>insert evil grin here<– They did a great job at creating the mistakes.

They were AWESOME presenting their work to the class as a collective group. However, the “audience” STRUGGLED at asking leading questions to get the presenters to discover their mistake. So many wanted to immediately point it out. Them: “So isn’t it true that negative three times negative three is POSITIVE nine?” Me: “Rephrase – you pointed out the mistake.” Them: “So when you learned to multiply negatives, did you not understand that squaring a negative makes a positive?” Me: “Nope – that was kinda rude. Rephrase.” Them: sigh. “Sooo, where you have negative three squared, can you help me understand how you got negative nine?” Me: “Sweet! Ok team – answer his question.”

Stats rocked it as usual (not ME, the kids). I love showing the Kristen Gilbert court case and going through that as a full class discussion, but I thought I’d change it up a little bit. I wanted more discussion. I treated it like a real court case and revealed a little of the evidence (or data) at a time to lead them into questioning her innocence. They really liked it (DUH – it’s an awesome case to do in stats if you haven’t ever tried it). Afterwards, we looked at Did You Know 3.0 – kids usually love watching that. Afterwards, I make them write down (in groups) the 3 stats that stood out to them. Not long after that, the bell rang. What’s good about this is that it’s my 3rd time to do this for stats (I do it in A.P. as well) and the kids always respond positively to it. So if you’re teaching stats for the first time, this will get them hooked. I will send you what I’ve got if you want it – just holla.

Tried to recover during my planning block. Let me say that wearing flip flops (if anything) all summer and then starting school in stiletto-heeled boots was NOT very smart. I get a call from the school secretary asking me to come to her office. I thought, “Dang it – WHAT have I done now?” No idea – I was cursing all the way to the office trying to figure out what the crap I’d possibly done to piss somebody off before noon on the first freakin’ day. Me: “Yes?” Secretary: “These are for you.”

OH. MY. GOSH. Flowers??? What the heck? Me: “Are you sure?” Secretary: “Yep – read the card.”

Ok – I shamefully admit that her desk is REALLY tall and those flowers were VERY high and I couldn’t reach, so I took her word for it and went back to my room. Thought they’d be from my mom or my son (via the hubs), but no.


Apparently she’d been scheming behind my back with @mesimmons5, but I can’t be mad because it was just so awesome and appreciated.

My 4th block Algebra 2 KICKS BUTT. I don’t know if it’s the end of the day or the fact that there are almost 30 of them in there or what, but I usually click best with my last class. They were SO into everything and just….. amazing.

I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the day and THANK GOD I had the next day off (weird scheduling, I know).

Hope your first day is awesome, too!

Here are some random shots of my classroom – I’m not finished “decorating” but it’s a start:

Here’s the front wall of my classroom right by the door:

I have a box for each block to turn things in and pick up their folders for the day. I’m going to do @mgolding’s organization outline on the little table for spaces for stapler, hole punch, tape, etc.

This is MY motivation board. It reminds me why I do what I do. It’s not finished (I have to put TMC12 pics up), but it’s behind my desk. Things on it: buttons from TechSmith, an encouraging card from @troystein, pictures of students who have overcome A LOT and are inspirations to me, a postcard from a former student who now lives in Turkey who I am helping apply to colleges in the U.S. so she can come back, a newspaper pic of my kid, a newspaper pic of me and a student, my Harvard banner I got when I attended Project Zero, and a picture of me and my math BFF4EVA who passed away in 2007. If he were still alive, he’d be one of the most followed tweeps and bloggers around. Tragic end to someone I miss every day. Thankfully I teach his son, so I kind of get to see a glimpse of him.

This is my “score” board for kids to help me remember what games/events/performances they’re in every day. If they’re playing or performing, they write it on the board along with the time and location. Most days, I’ll take the kid and go watch. Means a lot to the kids to see you show up.

Going to try this little sucker I got from Target for kids to sign up for tutoring:

We’ll see how it goes.

And YES, it took me a whole WEEK to get the time to finish this blog. Arrrrrgggghhh.


20 thoughts on “First Day Back (well, on 8/7)… HOLY CHEEEZITS.

  1. I *LOVE* this!!! Plus I'm awestruck by the sneak attack by Fawn Nguyen. Talk about #nguyening!!!!! πŸ™‚

    Glad to hear the first day back was not too traumatic. I am in mourning for my last full week of summer freedom.

    – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)


  2. Excellent post and great photos. May I suggest in your last photo you cover up the names of the students in your class. Given that you took the time to blur the faces.
    You gave me some great ideas. Thanks.


  3. It sounds like an awesome first day. I totally get what you mean about wearing stilettos after a summer of flip flops.


  4. I wish you'd been my teacher. Seriously.

    I love your graphs. (Do you have them electronically?) I love that you ask the kids for the 3 favorite songs so you can make a playlist (I just edited my gdoc survey to do that). I love that you gave Rachel's Add 'Em Up Placemat and had them work together.

    I'm in awe.

    (And I'm worried about the flipflop thing – we've always been able to wear them and I'm not so sure the new principal's going to let us. Ack.)


  5. Thank you so much for the detailed description – I got a great idea of what your day looked like. No way were those kids bored!

    A second request for an electronic version of the graphs if you have them!!


  6. YAY, mistake gaming it up on the first day. I love that. πŸ™‚

    Also, the Score Board is a brilliant idea. Awesome.


  7. What a great first day!! I know you said you don't blog as much as you'd like, but when you do blog, you certainly get a lot in!!

    My favorite takeaway (though I'll use many things) was the SCORE board. I must say, I got a little tear in my eye thinking how special the kids must feel to have you care so much!! I will be putting that up in my room. Even if I can't go to the games/events, it will remind me to ask them about it the next day.

    Thank you, thank you!! I'm going to retweet @samjshah right now!
    Kelley (@kkssclark)


  8. This sounds great! I love that the kids are working from day one, but in a fun way. I would like the graphs if you have them as well. Thanks!


  9. Make this yet another request for the graphs and functions stuff from the left side of your folder. Fabulous!

    I can't believe how much goodness you managed to fit into this blog post (and your first day). I forwarded this on to some colleagues as a snapshot of how amazing this little world is. Pure gold!


  10. I am going to repeat what everyone has already said because this is just that great! I think all of the activities you did were great! Your students are in for a great year.

    And another request for where you got those graphs πŸ™‚


  11. I love the folder set-up, and the Sum of the Squares “puzzle”.

    Thanks for sharing your non-Procedures first day!


  12. Love it! as usual! That Fawn is a keeper!


  13. Reading your post makes me want to teach the same preps you do so I can just steal everything you do as you start school a month ahead. How lucky are these kids to have you! You're tops in my book for attending the kids' games. Love you to pieces.


  14. LOVE the 3 favorite songs idea…definitely stealing it!!


  15. Making a score board for next year now! That's a fabulous idea and I already have some artwork I can use with it.


  16. This is a great post! You mentioned that you wouldn't mind sharing more about what you do with your stats class to get them hooked. I would love to take a look if you have a chance. Also, do you have your students work through each folder or only one? Thanks!


  17. Great Post as I look for Start of Second Semester Inspiration. So unashamedly, I too am putting in a request for electronic form of function first day exercise.

    Happy New Year! Hope it kicks some serious butt.


  18. Great ideas. I'm teaching stats for the first time and would love to take you up on your offer to share your stats resources from this post.


  19. I was researching some AP Stat blogs and found yours! I am teaching AP Stat for the first time this year, and was wondering if you are still willing to share your first day stuff to get the students hooked.

    I hope you can help! I'll be searching your blog this year for ideas, I'm sure. Thank you in advance!


  20. […] keep a lot of the first week strategies I used “back in the day” that worked […]


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