Thursday was one of the best first days of school I’ve ever had. It was an event that hooked the kids in and hopefully left them excited for the school year. All day long I kept hearing “this is awesome” and “best class ever” and the occasional “Mr. Stock you’re weird.” Keep in mind this has been an accumulation of years of first days before I think I finally have the exact balance I want. Here’s how we roll out the school year in my class. It started before the kids ever entered the room. I transformed my door into an old-school vintage arcade machine with the title of my class game, The Novel Quest, written across the top. As the students gathered outside of my room I patiently waited and asked them if they had their quarters to play. They looked at me funny, that panicked, what-did-I-miss-on-the-supply-list look. I asked “how do you expect to play an arcade without quarters?” Then I pulled out a stack of paper quarters from my pocket and told them I would pay their quarter for them. Side note: the quarter will actually play a role later in the year. The quarter will activate one of the items in my game for anybody who saved it. Which item…I have no idea. I’ll figure that out later. It also has a few minor changes to the quarter that I’ll try to work in somewhere later. When the bell rang they took their quarters and entered my room. After a few quick introductions to the class and a few checks of the schedule to make sure they were in the correct room, I shared with them a video that I told them came from a buddy of mine named Special Agent A. This is the first of many of my “friends” that appear in my videos and look mysteriously like me. I assure them that it isn’t me. The video recruits them to an elite force of superheroes destined to come together and fight evil. They then spend the rest of the hour working through the steps of designing their own superhero logo. This superhero logo is a glyph that tells me a little bit about the student. For example the outline is a different color depending on how many siblings a student has, the student gives their superhero a secret identity based on what they want to be when they grow up, etc. At two different points in the class we take a break. The first one is a dice battle. Each table group sends up one representative to roll the dice. Then I put them in order based on the number they roll. That becomes the order of supplies they get to choose from. I had colored pencils, markers, and crayons. Apparently nobody likes crayons, because that one was always the last one picked. The second break we took was a plank challenge. I had one member of each group come up and perform a plank to see who could last the longest. They had a blast cheering on their teammates. I always like including a physical challenge every once in awhile to give students who might struggle academically a chance to excel in my room. The superhero activity is meant to do more than just tell me what a student is thinking as they are creating their glyph. It is also telling me a TON about what type of student they might be. I look for students who aren’t sharing the supplies, ones who struggle to follow my directions or work too far ahead, and ones who have creative responses to my questions. I also look at which students lead their groups vs. the students who boss their groups around. It tells me a lot about how to group them later on in the year. But they don’t usually pick up on any of that. All they know is that their crazy Language Arts teacher may or may not have recorded a random video recruiting them to a superhero team and helped them design a cool superhero logo. They left my room smiling and excited for what the next day might have in store for them. I’m psyched for another great year!