I read a very sad (for me) and frustrating (for the author) email a few weeks ago. It was written by a teacher on a listserve I subscribe to. This teacher's school administration forbids teachers from teaching anything new during the first two weeks of school.
I can't imagine greeting the hopefully faces of a new school year and structuring class around the same things they learned last year. Just review for the first two weeks?! For those students who were successful learning the previous material, the first days of school would be boring. For those students who did not master topics in the previous year, I feel even more sympathy. Coming through the school doors, and being hit with last year's defeat must feel terrible.
I've started this school year with completely new lab investigations. A new classroom location with a door directly to a school yard, a brilliant string of clear late summer weather, and a desire to connect many of the year's topics to plants and food production inspired me to switch my usual beginning sequence to something new. Trying new activities really is nothing new-- while I teach a core of central concepts, I like to get at them through new labs and assignments. The students themselves change, and they are the inspiration to try new things.