In the age of technology, when students use online databases for home research and when Khan Academy tutorials personalize learning, why does the 21st-century student come to school?
They come to see their friends. They come for the community. They come to be part of a classroom culture that motivates them to stick with the online tutorial and write that last paragraph in an essay.
For my first seven years of teaching, I spent the first week discussing class norms, dutifully posting group expectations on the wall, and asking that students sign an agreement to follow them in an effort to "determine class culture."
Turns out there's a quicker, more fun way to establish a positive atmosphere. With a little reinforcement, this positive culture lasts past the honeymoon of the first two weeks and into the second quarter when the gloves come off.
The secret is improv games. I call them warm-ups and play them once a week at the beginning of class. Many students tell me that warm-ups are the best part of their day. On one feedback form, Lacie wrote: