Implementing the First 5 Days – An Interview with Ian VanderSchee

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In this episode of the November Learning Podcast Series, Alan November speaks to Ian VanderSchee, an upper level mathematics teacher at Coppell High School, in Texas. The two discuss Ian’s implementation of Alan’s “First 5 Days” ideas at the start of this school year and how these ideas have positively impacted his students ever since.

To learn more about these and other possible “First 5 Days” implementations, we encourage you to read Alan’s book, Who Owns the Learning, and we invite you to attend the Building Learning Communities conference being held this summer in Boston. You can learn about both of these on our Web site at You might also share your thoughts and stories about the “First 5 Days” on Twitter, using the hashtag #1st5days.

As a result of Ian introducing the “First 5 Days” and the success of his students, every teacher at Coppell High School will be implementing a “First 5 Days” plan at the start of this school year.


  1. Mr. VanderSchee is my IB math teacher and I experienced the “First 5 Days” for the very first time this year. I thought it was very odd at first that we did not begin learning content on the first day like I had in all my previous math classes at Coppell High School. However, it turned out to be a great opportunity to learn new methods of researching that I wouldn’t normally have learned without Mr. VanderSchee (or as we call him VSchee). In addition, it was convenient for me to use this 5 day “grace period” to adjust to the schedule of school without being bombarded with Calculus after doing not doing math all summer. I have used the researching skills learned in the First 5 Days on my history IA and English presentations and they have saved me quite a bit of time and effort. Lastly, Mr. VanderSchee is an amazing teacher and probably should be teacher of the year, but unfortunately I don’t get to vote in that election. Thanks VSchee for everything you do!

  2. Thanks for this conversation. What resources are available from Mr. VanderShee?

  3. The first 5 days are critical to student learning. We as educators have to teach students in some cases how to learn. As Ian was saying, student sometimes approach learning with a very cut and dry attitude rather than to be taught to dig deep for a better understanding of task or assignments given. Students will begin a project using internet resources as he stated and just recite whatever is written in the first set of resources to appear rather than to dig deeper for a more sought out experience. In other cases educators have to include extended searches to improve teaching techniques to move students toward higher levels of thinking and studying.

  4. I plan to read the first 5 days

  5. I think his concept of the 1st five days were very interesting. If a student really understands how to do research correctly, these skills can be used forever. This would also help with organization.

  6. I think that changing up the first five days would be great in a traditional school. In an Alternative School setting, this might be more difficult. Mainly, because our students come in everyday. Most of the time, we start off with a smaller number and then the numbers increase as the school year progresses. Being able to do research correctly is a great skill for the students to learn.


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