My aim for 2014 is to write a blog post each week that includes a range of teaching strategies that can be used to engage students in their learning. The focus will be on the learning goal, using a variety of hands-on strategies, web tools and mobile apps. For week one I am suggesting a range of strategies to be used as ‘Icebreakers’.
Since Christmas Day, 52 passengers and 22 crew members have been stranded in pack ice near Antarctica – three icebreakers have failed to reach them and finally a helicopter is being sent to rescue them. Classrooms can be a bit like ships sometimes – students with different interests and abilities are grouped together with a common destination. The goal is reached more effectively when everyone gets along and demonstrates good organisational skills, persistence, resilience and teamwork. Setting high expectations in the beginning and clearly communicating those expectations is important in an open and trusting environment.
At the beginning of each year, teachers will benefit from getting to know the students in their new classes – their interests, strengths, experiences and skills. To build trust and respect in your classroom, students need to get to know each other too. The following activities can be used to help participants feel comfortable in the classroom and assist in creating and maintaining a successful learning environment.
1. Create an avatar
Avatars are small images that can be used to identify users online. There are a huge variety of online sites to create your own avatar, including
2. If I was an animal, I would be a…..
Students find a picture of an animal that represents their character. ARKive and Flickr are two great sources of animal images. Students then describe the characteristics of the animal that they have. This is a question sometimes used in job interviews, so it is worth thinking about. A monkey might be considered agile, intelligent and curious; an ant is hard-working and part of a team; a tortoise might be slow-moving, but thoughtful and persistent and an elephant is strong, loyal and has a great memory.
3. Self Portrait
Students draw/sketch/paint/collage themselves and display their image. Digital tools that can be used include:
4. Use word clouds to create an image
Wordle and Tagxedo are two web2.0 tools that students can use to create an image using words they choose to describe themselves. WordFoto is a mobile app that can be used in a similar way. Lois Smethurst explains the process of using Tagxedo and WordFoto on her blog, “My ICT Journey”. Ask students to choose at least ten words that they think describe themselves. An alternative might be “Ten things you didn’t know about me”.
5. My five best qualities
Students trace around their hand and for each finger nominate a characteristic that they are proud of – some students might need prompts, so perhaps you could brainstorm a list as a class to start with. You can also use Padlet or Linoit to complete this activity (each student posts their five characteristics on a sticky note on the digital ‘wall’ or ‘pinboard’). Here is a list of 555 personal qualities that students may find helpful.
Some more ideas for Icebreakers can be found at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning – Ten Techy Icebreakers for the 21st Century Teacher.