Finding the balance between ice breakers, diagnostic tests, and course material during the first week of class has not always been easy for me as a teacher. So, it was a goal of mine to make that balance a priority this semester. Although it is only the second day of class, I have been pleased with the result so far and wanted to share my experience.
While there is a lot to be said for establishing trust and community through get to know you games, I haven’t always felt like the activities I’ve used were as effective as I had hoped. Because of that, I spent a good portion of my Friday planning time last week reading through teacher blogs and weighing my options. I landed on this post and decided to take the idea and make it my own.
For this activity, I had three sentence starters in columns on the board. The sentences were
“Our classroom should be…”
“A good classmate is…”
“A good teacher is…”
I had each student complete the three sentences on a piece of paper. Since this is a Foundations B level course, their additions ranged from one word to a short phrase. Once the students had completed their sentences, I had them add their responses to the columns on the board and emphasized that repeated answers were ok. We talked about the answers briefly, but I told them we would talk about it in greater detail the next day.
That night I took the responses from my two sections of the class and pulled all of the adjectives out. I copied and pasted the words into wordle.net to create a word cloud. The thing I love about wordle is that the frequency of the word increases the size in the word cloud, which means it is easy to see what is most important to my students. Then I took the verbs from the list they made and used to to describe what we have to do everyday as a class to consistently be and feel all of those things.
Here is our final product:
Today I brought in a printed copy of this mini-poster and shared it with my students. We talked about the words individually to make sure they were all familiar with the definitions. We then talked about how these words can impact how we act in class and as a class. I emphasized that I wanted this poster in our room to remind us that, even on the lazy, stressful, cold, homesick days, these words describe our class and give us a clear explanation of what we need to do to change how we feel.
The mini-poster was a hit in both of my sections and it was one of the best beginning of semester activities I have done. It helped me see clearly what their expectations were of me and help them communicate to each other. It was interesting to me how students used these words to describe their classmates during a get to know you game at the end of class. I am excited to see how this start to the semester impacts our classroom culture this semester.