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Favorite beginning of semester classroom activity

One of my favorite activities at the beginning of each semester is to pose a question to all of the students in the class and have each student respond individually. Logistically this works better with a smaller class.  For example, on the first day of class students take turns stating their their name and major, and naming one fun activity that they engaged during the break.

I do this exercise for the first couple of days in the beginning of the semester, and then periodically throughout the semester. There are multiple benefits to this exercise.
1. I learn students names.
2. This exercise sets up an environment where speaking in class is not only encouraged, but expected, which makes students more comfortable speaking in class.  This is especially important if you would like students to participate in classroom discussions.
3. Students get to know their classroom cohort and it gives a platform to develop collaboration.
4. Students learn the skills of listening and follow through with verbal instructions.
5. Taking a break and having a question round boosts the energy of the class.
Some of the question that I have used in the past:
– Last thing that you watched on TV.
– Favorite book/movie/TV show/ etc.
– Fun plans for the coming up holiday/break.
– Plans after graduation.
– Interest in the field/subject matter.
– I also take suggestions from students.
Even though it does take a few minutes in the beginning of class I feel that that the effort is rewarded exponentially throughout the semester.


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3 comments to Favorite beginning of semester classroom activity

  • This is great. These kinds of go-arounds can definitely warm up a room. I’ve been thinking I need to do something similar when my class meets next. While my students have been talking in small groups, some of them are still a bit more reticent when it comes to whole-group conversations. Plus, I’ve got most of their names down by now, but because of all the snow and last-minute enrollment, I don’t think the students have learned each other’s names yet.

  • Anytime that you can get students to interact with one another is a great way to build a collaborative community in the classroom.

    In the past I have had students play People Bingo with self-designed Bingo cards. I made up a list of teacher/reader/people traits such as:

    Loved reading Romeo and Juliet
    Keep/Kept a Journal
    Created a Travel Scrapbook
    Read a novel in the last two months
    Used a recipe from a cookbook
    Read the online version of a newspaper today
    Read the print edition of a newspaper today
    Have a library card
    Had one or more students absent today
    Ate lunch at my desk
    Ate lunch in the teacher’s cafeteria
    Figure out an unfamiliar word by sounding it out
    Figure out the meaning of an unknown word from the context

    Students have to get up and mingle with their classmates. They have to find a classmate that has a specific trait that they need signed and ask their classmate to sign in the appropriate box.

    Unlike real Bingo, not just one person wins, everyone does! I call Bingo before they have the opportunity to complete the card and they have four minutes to chat with the last person that signed their Bingo Card. After they return to their seats, they are asked to introduce the other person to the class. Then the other student introduces them.

    I find it is a great way to learn student names and interesting facts about the students.

  • Hi All –

    These are awesome ideas.. thank you for sharing. I would relate them to the concept of connecting your students to one another not only at the start of the semester, but throughout the term. For me, I have found that this opens the pathway for higher order thinking and discussions on health topics that are current and practical.

    One of the biggest challenges in my teaching experiences at Queens is getting the students to interact with one another and feel comfortable with topics related to the human body. In the activity courses I teach this is less of an issue (the student have no choice but to interact with one another), but it remains difficult to achieve in the classroom setting.

    Some of the strategies that I have started to include to increase student interaction include 1) an in-class group assignment (towards the last third of semester), 2) an outdoor class session when the weather is better (held earlier in the fall / later in the spring term), 3) a Blackboard-based discussion board that I organize similar to a Blog (at beginning of semester), and 4) a share out-loud of a visit to a Fitness Center/Health Club (at the start of the term.)

    *I would probably cross-link this with Adjunct-Student Interactions, but not sure if that is possible.* Happy Blogging =)