So if you have not heard of the ProjectPLN Magazine (This link will take you to the first issue), now is a great time to learn about it. The idea was started by Nick Provenzano and he collaborated with Kelly Tenkely to get it off the ground. You can learn more about ProjectPLN from their blogs: iLearn Technology and The Nerdy Teacher. The first issue really helps explain the idea behind a PLN (Professional Learning Network) and provides resources on how to start your own. With the inclusion of PLC (Professional Learning Communities) it is important to develop one outside your school and help turn your community into a network.
For the next issue of ProjectPLN the discussion is on Best Practices for the start of school. I don't currently teach, but several ideas do come to mind to help with classroom management and "getting to know" your students. Below are several ideas for the start of the school year.
1.) Have students create a Word Cloud of words that express their personality, values, and beliefs. If using Wordle, have them put the most important words in their more then once so that they appear larger. Then hang them up or keep to yourself...that will depend on the personality of your class!
2.) Many classroom management books suggest putting kids in alphabetical order, and I agree. Makes it easy to learn names. For a teacher at my school he made it into a competition. He drew the class layout on the board and told the kids to find their seat according to their last name. The class that did it the fastset won a prize. He also did not allow them to talk. Talk about a interesting first day.
3.) I would give my kids a challenge of building the tallest tower out of straws and only provide a certain length of tape. They would work in groups. The could not talk so they had to communicate in other ways. It really helps develop team work in the first week of school and shows that talking does not necessarily help with an assignment. :)
4.) Bellringers are a huge deal. Our school recently purchased large TV's for the classrooms and hooked those to the computer. Several teachers have created PowerPoint's to display their bellringer. Therefore they can save them for future use and it is easy for the kids to always know where to look when they come to the classroom to have something to work on.
5.) Use a clicker system the first day and gather information about your students. Things you would like to know. Computer access at home, clubs/athletics they are involved in, community involvement, etc. Very easy to organize the data you get back in return. You could do the same with index cards, but the clickers will help with data organization.
6.) Provide students access to computers and have students use Glogster to create a poster that tells about themselves. Favorite movies, TV shows, music, etc. It can be a fun activity that also allows you to introduce Glogster to your students.
7.) Have students from the previous class year share their favorite things about your class. Or have your students write an open letter about what future students need to do in order to succeed in your classroom. This might be a great way to use a site like Wallwisher with students at the end of a school year.
8.) Ask students to provide you with their cell phone number and their cell carrier. You can send a text message to your students using your email. Up to 160 characters is the limit for one text message. This would be a great way to keep in touch with students about projects, test, etc. Plus, you have documentation of the messages you send and their replies, because their replies will come back to your email. It also keeps your cell phone number private as well.
9.) Show students videos from music, television, video games, commercials, current events, movies, and sports from the year they were born and discuss how much things have changed. Be a great introduction to any unit of study and to find funny older videos to share with the class.
10.) Have an easily accessible teacher webpage. Students need an area where they can access assignments, due dates, lecture notes, etc. Have a website that allows for discussion through blogs or message boards.
11.) Use various social media tools such as Twitter to create a classroom account for students to get quick reminders for your class. Nings make great social networks for your classroom as well that allows students to join and follow various aspects of your classroom. It is also great for personalization. You might also look at creating a Facebook page as well; although controversial, it can be a useful communication tool. Anyway that you can increase communcation with parents and students will be beneficial.