On day 2 of first year physics, students were greeted at the door with a handshake, a smile, and were given a card and instructions that “this will help you find your seat.” The instructions on the board directed students to look at their card and then interact with the other students in the class to find others with cards that describe the same motion. These cards would help them find their group for the day. Once they find their group, they can choose a table to sit at and then introduce themselves. We did this after students had a whiteboard discussion comparing graphs, equations, and written descriptions of constant velocity motion, but before they were introduced to Motion Maps (pictorial representations).
This idea was influenced by a blog post by Marta R. Stoeckel about Building a Whole Class Culture, who was similarly influenced by Kelly O’Shea. The rationale that I explained to students went like this: “There are two main reasons we did this today. The first is that I want you to develop a comfort working with every student in this class. Working with a partner, team, and participating in whole class discussions will be a frequent experience in this class. Early in the school year I want you to get a chance to meet and interact with everyone in this class. We will be changing seats regularly the first couple weeks. The second reason we did this is to practice figuring stuff out. You were introduced to equations, graphs, and written descriptions of motion on day 1, but were not shown any diagrams. And yet, many of you were successful in figuring out how these representations related to each other and what the diagrams told you.”
This idea was also inspired by Brian Frank. I used his Card Stacks ideas as a model (and actually used them instead in my AP C classes). I decided to create my own so that there would be enough for classes as large as 32. Here’s a pdf of my card stack. I’m happy to share the original Word Doc, just contact me!