In my very first TESL Ontario blog post, I shared an activity to help teachers remember their students’ names.1 It also happens that the activity helps students learn each other’s names and, as a result, helps to build community. By addressing each other by name, students are more likely to build bonds and feel valued. Building community is a process, however, and although this activity is a good start, teachers can incorporate other activities throughout the term or academic year to make the process memorable.
The following activity is one I use to help strengthen students’ sense of community by letting them share something about themselves that highlights a positive attribute. This activity also gives the teacher the opportunity to do the same.
Choose a Word Beginning with the First Letter of Your First (or Preferred) Name
The activity is an oldie but goody, which I refreshed with the use of technology. It can be used online or in the physical classroom. For the latter, students need to have an electronic device.
For this activity, students choose a word (noun or an adjective) that begins with the first letter of their name (or preferred name) and that represents a positive attribute about themselves; they then choose an image to illustrate the concept and explain their letter choice in two to three sentences. To make the activity more memorable, I use Padlet as my technology of choice. With Padlet, students can quickly choose a picture from the application’s image library and revisit each other’s work as many times as they want.
Once students have their word, explanation, and image posted on Padlet, I divide the class into groups, so they can share their word in small groups, which works better than having a whole class activity where everyone stays in their seat and faces the front of the class (or webcam) when speaking. In small groups, students can share their word choices at a more personal level, which also works for students who are not comfortable presenting to a large group.
Of course, I model the activity, which also helps me to share something about myself, and sets the stage for students to feel comfortable about doing the same. The example below is one I have used to help me share with my students an aspect of my philosophy of education:
C for Coalescence
Hello Everyone, My first name is Cecilia, so I chose the noun coalescence. For me, teaching is about sharing and connecting ideas. I believe learning does not only come from me, but also from my students. Learning happens through coalescence.
There is a myriad of get-to-know-you activities that teachers can use not only on the first day, but also throughout the term or academic year. They can also be modified to match students’ language proficiency. What is important about these activities is that they help us to remember one another, making teaching and learning more memorable. Best of all, they help to build community.
What is your favourite get-to-know activity?
1 Get-to-Know Activities in the Language Classroom, https://blog.teslontario.org/get-to-know-activities-in-the-language-classroom/