You made it through the first day! Now what?
On the second day of school, I do a pre-test. I pass out warm-up papers and do a short warm-up first to get them in the habit. The warm-up is usually projected on the board and they write the problem and show work in the space for that day (here is a link to a sample warm-up page - FREEBIE on TpT). Since we have not done any math yet, today it will be a review of the syllabus. I will collect the warm-up paper at the end of the second week and give them an effort grade for it.
I use this day to see what they remember and while they are taking the pre-test, I work on learning names. They are sitting alphabetically, so I use my class list and study their faces and names. After about 20 minutes of studying, I can remember most of them. Sometimes I will let them quiz me on names after the pre-test if there is still time. I really try to make a game of it and tell them that they can test me anytime, but I apologize if I get it wrong - there are just so many names to remember! This helps me learn so many names right at the beginning. I would like to think that it also makes the kids feel important since I am working hard to get to know them right away. If they feel you care, they will work harder for you later in the year. Relationships are so important.
In my opinion, the pre-test doesn't give me a lot of information. A lot of kids forget it all over the summer. I always start at the beginning of what I need them to know. A pre-test does give you some additional insight on a kid who told you yesterday that they are supposed to be in Geometry or Honors Algebra 1. The pre-test that I have created (click here to see it), has basic fractions, positive and negative rules, distributive property, simplifying expressions/order of operations, solving equations, slope, and writing/graphing basic slope-intercept form linear equations. Really basic skills which most kids have seen before.
On the pre-test, I tell them if they don't know how to do it let me know if 1 - they have never seen it before, 2 - seen it before but never understood it, or 3 - know they have seen it but need an example or two. I give them an effort grade from the pre-test to help motivate them to try their best and start the year in a positive way.
Tomorrow is when the real fun starts.