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#DigiLitSunday First Days Part 1


Moment Between Worlds

Beginnings, Part 1

Teachers and students are in a moment now between worlds, between the summer of exploration on our own and autumn of investigation in school. And I am in the moment between active and retired. Yet, I still ponder how I would [and did] start the year.

Those first days set the tone and community for the rest of the year. I want students to know we’ll be serious thinkers in dialogue with one another to tease out our understandings. I want them to know we’re in this learning journey together, and we need to set goals and provide feedback to each other, supporting or letting go when needed in a learning community that extends beyond the classroom.

Building the learning community is of utmost importance — building my credibility and accepting the students as credible learners!  To accomplish this, the first few days need to:

  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community
  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements
  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together

What do we do the first day?


Here’s an outline. Notice the flow of activity from individual to group to class. Notice students are doing the work, and teacher is supporting, scaffolding as needed. Each activity should be quick to capture the ideas and prevent dead time; more ideas can be added over the next few days as we continue the collaborative seating activity and a reading/writing activity. I don’t worry about accomplishing all of this in one day, but we don’t dwell either; that’s part of the teacher’s management and understanding the pulse of student interest.  We will continue to refer to the charts on Works / Or not and Student / Teacher actions this first day and the first few days so we see that all of us are participating together to grow in our learning.


  • Invitational greeting at the door from teacher
  • Setting the first goal: a collaborative activity on screen [idea from Joy Kirr and Sandy Merz]
  • Students collaborate on seating from the directions
    • I observe, waiting until absolutely necessary to intervene
    • I may ask a question about the prompt to a student
    • I may encourage a student to speak up, or others to listen
  • Celebrate in class discussion
    • Refer to the goal: form groups
    • Acknowledge  and accept the events of participation – confusion, perseverance, and success
      • Note: We discuss who was a leader that day in helping to organize, who asked questions to clarify, who helped, who added an idea, etc. Each succeeding day students will improve in their openness and appropriate requests and conversations. Each day another student will take the lead, each day they will learn better ways to interact with and involve their peers, and each day they will learn positive ways to encourage each other. Most importantly, the students are collaborating not just with their usual friends, but with whomever is in their group that day. If students can speak up, lead, discuss with each of their classmates, including those they may not have chosen, then we are well on our way to becoming connected learners with peers around the world.
  • Give students a scrap of paper —
    • ask each to think of one event that started the success or ended a confusion
    • Ask them to write what worked and what didn’t
  • Ask them to share in their groups and to create lists on poster paper of What Worked to Succeed and What Did Not Work
  • Pull the class together and ask for a few quick responses from each list, without repeating
  • Listen for the key point and ask a clarifying question each time, to get at a specific example from their perspective; it’s my chance to be truly interested in their ideas
  • Ask students to go back and revise their lists to be more specific
  • Hang up the posters and give students dots to place by the most important “What Worked” strategies

    Paper Version Learning Community
  • IMG_8709
    Paper Version

    Ask students to get or go to a computer to the class home page to link to a document “Learning Community Guidelines” with a table for “Our Guidelines”  Ask students to add things that we all should do based on the posters and experience to be successful at projects [students choose a row to add as many guidelines as they can]

If using paper, students each write their own but by discussing in groups to create their paper versions in their own notebook.






  • If guidelines are on the computer, randomly pick one group to edit to take out the duplicates; If guidelines are on paper, ask one student to type up each group’s list, editing for duplicates. The rest move on to the next task. For this task, choose a fast typer 🙂
  • Ask each student to make two lists of what we’ve done in the classroom so far:
    • A list of what the students did
    • A list of what the teacher did
  • Ask student groups to share make a list on poster paper of what we’ve done so far in the classroom
    • A list of what students did
    • A list of what teacher did
  • Put the edited learning community guidelines up and ask students if they are complete [teacher may add too]
  • Are they agreeable? Ask the students to type their name below the guidelines
  • Hang up  the  “What We Did” posters
  • Review the Community Guidelines with students but in the context of expectations for classroom protocol, which may include [we’ll review this over the week, so it doesn’t need to take long this day]:
    • Enter the room [tomorrow students will have their own copy of the Guidelines and a notebook to store in the room — which they need daily as part of entry]
      • Student
        • Be prepared — pens, pencils, papers, class notebooks, library books, all ready to go
        • Look for and complete entry task
        • If no entry task, read or write [on projects]
      • Teacher
        • Entry task ready
        • Reading  / Writing ready
        • Greets students / reviews work
    • Individual Work [student and teacher]
      • Quiet
      • On own
      • In own area
      • Distraction free
      • Teacher conferences
    • Group Work
      • Student
        • All participate
        • Listen
        • Discuss
        • Positive voices
        • Agree to disagree
        • Support with evidence
        • Invite all to participate
        • Roles [to be expanded on later [leader, timekeeper, statistician, recorder, morale officer]
      • Teacher
        • Monitors groups
        • Confers with groups
        • Feedback
    • Closing
      • Ask students what we will probably need to do to close our class:
        • Exit Thoughts
        • Clean areas
        • Computer protocol
        • Turn in
        • Class work away in own area
        • My rule: Stand by desks for dismissal
        • Last class: Stacks chairs and stands by desk
  • Exit Thoughts: What confuses you? What’s the most important thing you learned about being successful in this class? This can be on paper or in a Share Out document.  Students practice closing protocol.


Over the next few days, we review the protocols, guidelines, and interactions, adding or revising as needed while still doing our work, debriefing before, during, and after to celebrate what we did well according to our living guidelines. Our work includes activities that will be similar to those we will do all year. We’ll do more seating collaboration and reading and discussing Tween Tribune articles with partners [ Activity here ], which includes individual and partner work. I can discover what interests they have, listen to them reading, and encourage the types of collaborative behavior we continuously discuss as part of our Learning Community guidelines. Some will read the articles individually and some together. The students can also listen [highlight option esc on a Mac] to the story together. I’ve not had a problem with kids listening together on the computer. This activity brings in student choice in how to fulfill expectations in reading and writing by organizing this partner work.

None of these activities require students to login; we’ll introduce logging in and computer expectations and guidelines as we work through the week and use computers. Our netiquette guidelines are reviewed continuously and extend online and offline.

Other activities are added as time allows, such as slowly introducing Power Writing, which gives me a sense of their writing, is engaging to the students, and develops writing fluency.

We will begin our course Essential Questions:

  • How do researchers investigate successfully?
  • What strategies and processes do collaborators need for success?
  • How do readers and writers determine and develop relevant, accurate, and complete topics?
  • How do publishers design and organize content for their audience and purpose?
  • Why and how do editors and speakers use and edit with the rules for standard English grammar and language ?

I introduce them to quick assessments in a Google Doc or a Google Spreadsheet.


How did we do?

  • Determine and practice expectations of a learning community — individual, group, class, and even different tasks completed with positive actions
  • Discuss and learn protocols for entering, leaving, independent work, group work, discussions, turning in work, computer use, agreements, disagreements
  • Accomplish and celebrate learning / work together — charts and documents, shared documents, a living Learning Community Guidelines


Common Core State Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • SL.1.b – Comprehension and Collaboration: Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.
  • SL.1.c – Comprehension and Collaboration: Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.
  • SL.1.d – Comprehension and Collaboration: Acknowledge new information expressed by others and, when warranted, modify their own views.
  • SL.4 – Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with pertinent descriptions, facts, details, and examples; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

When we begin the reading / writing activities:

  • W 9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. [Includes RI 1, 2]
  • W 7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions for further research and investigation.
  • RI.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone. [ See also Language 5]
  • RI.6 Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author distinguishes his or her position from that of others.
  • Read [Investigate, Content]
  • RI 2 – Determine two or more central ideas in a text and analyze their development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.
  1. 1 – Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  • Write [Content}
  • 6-8.WHST.8 – Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
  • 6-8.WHST.2.b – Text Types and Purposes: Develop the topic with relevant, well-chosen facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • 6-8.WHST.2.d – Text Types and Purposes: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • W.6  Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.

Every moment is filled with purpose towards our relationship and our focus; a teacher makes instant decisions on the fly based on student input, confusion, prior knowledge, attitude, skills, interactions. It’s a delicate dance moving forward, checking the beat of the moment with the steps towards the future.


What will your first dance look like?

Part 2

A cross-post here.

This post is part of Margaret Simon’s blogging challenge.

Read more here.Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Sheri Edwards View All

Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart

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