Sunday, July 24, 2011

Icebreakers, not Sleeping Pills

I remember when I had English classes, most of them started the same. The teacher would tell the rules of our class and write on the board the test dates for us to copy. Then, there would be some kind of warmer that sometimes was colder than being in the Antarctic with inappropriate clothes for the weather. Yes, I have a vivid memory about that, and not so much about fun, engaging activities during the first class. Funny thing is that even the simplest activity would please me as the first day was always an exciting part of my school year. We met the new teacher, new friends and old ones. The book was new, new pens, pencils and notebook, ready for action.

#88 24-09-2007
First day at school, buh. It was pretty boring so I spent my time decorating my hand :)
The only interesting thing he said was "if you want to see more photos of this building, you can go to flickr.com" yay!

Now, as a teacher, I really spend some time to find simple, pleasant activities to make my students remember why they enrolled in an English class in the first place. If the students don't know me, in the past I used to write some numbers on the board for students to figure out what they meant for me. It was a lot of fun, lots of questions and discovery. Personal. Then, they'd do the same with their peers. It has always worked. No need for much preparation. And if teachers want to play safe, this activity is engaging and effective.

However, with so much out there at the tip of our fingers, I've been trying to go beyond, to make my first day a more memorable first encounter, a more critical-thinking enhanced class.

This is my plan. First, I'll show some pictures of mine. Students need to guess what it is about, who those people are. Plus, they can ask me some questions. I created this by grabbing my favorite photos set in Flickr and adding them to a Gallery (you can only do that by using other people's photos)
Here's my presentation. Can you guess things about me from the pictures?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlaarena/galleries/72157627143771675/


Oh, but wait a minute! This class was mine last semester! I'll need to be more creative than that, for they know a lot about me. So, I'll do the opposite. I'll show images to tell them 7 things they don't know about me and they have to guess what's the story behind it.
Here's my selection of images:



Then, I'm going to show students powerful images with colors, emotions, places, people and they will have to relate the images with their lives, themselves or their vacation. By doing that, I'm sure I'll be able to learn more than ever about my students, their passions, and interests. Isn't that a good start for us to make informed decisions when we're planning our next lessons?





Another way to do the students' part is for them to look for any images in their cell phones or wallets, they show to peers, and peers try to guess from the image a bit more about them. If students don't have images in their cell phones, they can find any object in their purses and wallets to share with their pairs.

And if you're willing to see more fantastic examples of icebreakers, here are some that educators at the school I work for prepared:
http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com/2010/07/language-learning-tips.html
http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com/2010/01/ice-breakers.html

How about test dates and rules? Not in my first day of class when I want students to turn on and not OFF. I want to open up their brains for an exciting, enticing journey. I want them to want more, to be there with me next class. Test dates and rules can wait another class, or, if not possible, the end of the class.

How about you? Any other tips?

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