Fire drill routes… lock-down procedures… the location of supplies in the classroom… the list of supplies you will have to run out and buy tonight… Nothing makes you long for the carefree days of summer quite as quickly as the first day of school and the tedium of the required paperwork. Surely, knowing the power of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to transform education, surely there has to be a better way!
In rethinking the first day of school, my first thought was that I wanted to increase student engagement in school-focused activities. On the first day of school, the students fluctuate between end-of-summer stupor and catching-up-on-talk chatting. I either end up starting our working relationship by calling for attention repeatedly or by lecturing from the front of the room about incredibly boring (but important) routines. How could this look different?
Bringing UDL to the First Day of School: a Make-Over
This year, we will be starting our first day of school with an in-classroom scavenger hunt. Given our class expectations sheet, a map of the school, a map of the classroom, and lots of options, students will engage with exactly the same information we usually force them to listen to, class after class.
Our goal: massive amounts of student engagement, options for movement, and a far more memorable experience for the students, as well as opportunities for us as teachers to meet our students individually, while still fulfilling our legal obligations around our students’ safety, a win-win situation all around.
Thanks to Irene Witt (as always!) for helping me design this scavenger hunt.