This is a guest blog, written by my colleague Gemma Oliver.
While preparing for the beginning of this school year, I was struggling to incorporate ways to get to know my students, let them get to know each other, AND leave enough time in our schedule to get through the material for the semester. So much to do and so little time! Giving space for the students to share out about themselves and bring their personalities into the classroom was not something I was willing to sacrifice. In the end, I chose to adapt an activity that I have seen Chris use on campus in the past called Rumors. I was so happy with how well it translated into the remote world!
On campus, the game goes a little like this:
- Everyone is asked to write down a response to 2-3 prompts on a notecard (Rose/Thorn, burning questions, etc.)
- Then, everyone is asked to stand up, walk a few steps, and find a partner.
- Once everyone has a partner, they have two minutes to both share out their responses and swap cards.
- Once the two minutes are up, they will have to take their first partner’s card and find a new partner.
- For the second round, they will each share out the responses of their previous partner instead of their own and, again, switch cards. This could continue on for a few more rounds.
One of the main reasons I like this game is because it allows students time at the beginning to think about what they want to share out and prompts them to make a “cue card” for themselves. This provides great structure and processing time for students who are more hesitant to talk in class and students who would otherwise talk too much and take time away from others. Being that Zoom already makes it more difficult to speak up in class, I wanted to provide plenty of structure at the beginning so that we could get to know each other and begin building the rapport necessary to comfortably engage through Zoom.
Here’s how I formatted the game in the remote setting:
- As students were joining the call, I had a slide screen shared with the prompts for them to respond to.
- When they were ready, I sent them into two-person breakout rooms with the instructions to each share out their responses and take some quick notes on what the other person’s responses were. (I used timed breakout rooms and gave them three minutes instead of two to account for the extra time needed to write down some notes.)
- When the three minutes were up, the breakout rooms closed and I randomly assigned them to new breakout rooms immediately after.
- After three rounds, I brought them all back to the main room and asked them to write at least one thing that they had learned about someone else. As their comments were coming in, I read some aloud and oohed and aahed at the glorious facts I was learning about them! *This part was especially important to include since we lose the ability to “eavesdrop” on multiple conversations when we use Zoom. Without this, a lot of the information would have been lost.*
So! There are a couple of things that I loved about this. Hearing students tell me about themselves is great, but hearing them tell me exciting things about each other? That was some real heartwarming stuff! You could tell in the chat how excited they were to tell me about their classmates. On the same note, they seemed more comfortable adding something to the chat when it wasn’t something about themselves. This did a great job of taking some pressure off of them on the already stressful first day. I was also able to learn a TON of things about my students in about 10 minutes. I love how this activity transitioned from one on one conversations to a whole class experience. It allowed us to have more personal connections while also giving us a chance to learn about our entire class without taking up too much precious class time.
Although there is still plenty more for me to learn about my students, I think that this activity more than served its purpose of breaking the ice and forming some connections amongst students. In our current state, connections amongst students is about the biggest win I can think of!
Huge thanks to Gemma Oliver for sharing this!!!