Although I try to re-examine what I teach every year, I always begin the school year in the same way in my history courses. To briefly summarize, I fake my own death (with a wink and a nod), in order to introduce the students to the discipline of history. The students are asked to write a biography of their "dead" teacher, using personal artifacts, interviews, and other sources.
As our district focuses specifically on inquiry this year, I am reminded of Ron Ritchhart's Intellectual Character, and his chapter entitled, "First Days, First Steps: Initiating a Culture of Thinking". Here he asks these critical questions:
"What messages [do] teachers convey when they plunge students right in to a big subject matter issue?" (62)
How do the "first days of school...establish norms of interaction between students and teachers?" (69-70)Below is a VoiceThread (narrated presentation) describing the specifics of the activity. NOTE: this was recorded for a group of 1st Year teachers who were in an orientation session the week before school started:
How do you begin the school year with your students? To see another possibility, listen and watch this radio piece (set to images) by English teacher John S. O'Connor.
Written by John O'Connor — English Teacher, New Trier High School. John O'Connor reflects on what teachers face on the first day of school. O’Connor is the author of Wordplaygrounds: Reading, Writing and Performing Poetry in the English Classroom (National Council of Teachers of English, 2004). Originally aired on WBEZ 91.5 Chicago.