Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
Sometimes classroom climate can be a powerful predictor of student success. When students feel safe and supported in the classroom, success becomes more likely. The problem: how do we break the ice and create community in our classrooms?
Sometime at the beginning of the semester (it doesn’t have to be the first day), have your students “tell the story of their names.” Have students pair up; then, the first student speaks for one minute and shares whatever she wants to about her name. It could be the name’s family history, something about her maiden name and her married name, how her name identifies her or makes her feel—it is completely up to the individual student to share what he or she wants to share. The student’s partner must listen, silently, without saying a word. At the end of the minute, the partners switch and the second student tells his or her story.
As simple as it sounds, this is a great ice-breaking exercise because students get to know each other and start to build community through low-stakes personal sharing. Have each student present his or her partner to the class by telling the story of the partner’s name, and this will start the small- and large-group bonding. You can ask students what it felt like to listen for one minute without commenting—what did they hear by holding their tongues? You can ask what it felt like to speak for one minute without interruptions—did they feel respected or important? By facilitating an honest conversation following the speaking and listening exercise, you can set a tone for productive, forthright and respectful dialog in your classroom space.
Note: This exercise would work equally well in an online course format. Just set up pairs in Blackboard and have them practice “speaking” and “listening” via the discussion boards by setting parameters around their conversation for this exercise.
Still thirsty? Take another SIP of Classroom Climate
- 40 Icebreakers for Small Groups http://insight.typepad.co.uk/40_icebreakers_for_small_groups.pdf
- Classroom Icebreakers (geared toward P-12 but can be adapted for higher ed) http://www.educationworld.com/back_to_school/#first_day
- Group Games http://www.group-games.com/category/ice-breakers