Article, Writing Activities

Getting to Know Your Students

Five activities that will help you assess your new students' learning styles and interests 

  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

The first week of school is an exciting, and busy time. One of my major interests at the beginning of school is getting to know my students. I administer surveys or multiple intelligences (PDF), interest, reading skills, and writing skills at the start of the year. This helps me become familiar with my students’ various learning styles, intelligences, and interests so I can plan meaningful activities and lessons to meet their needs. Gathering this array of information early on allows me to create effective and differentiated lessons all year long.

Throughout the first week, students complete several individual, partner, and group activities, including the NAME poster, ME page, and a survival PowerPoint. These activities help them to know one another, and it also helps me to know them.

 

Introductions: Name Poster

What you'll need:  8"x10" white paper, crayons, colored pencils, markers old magazines & newspapers, scissors, glue
Trying it in your classroom:

  • Explain to students that their assignment is to, literally, create a poster with their name — they may use shortened versions of their names or nicknames.
  • Before working on their "final" poster design, let students practice printing their names in BIG BUBBLE LETTERS. They should aim to fill an entire 8"x10" sheet with the letters in their name. I have my students practice on notebook paper before giving them the white typing paper.
  • Once they have their names spelled out on the white paper, have students fill in each letter with information about themselves. Topics could include family, friends, pets, favorites, hobbies, goals, foods, sports, etc.
  • Encourage students to get creative! They can fill letters with drawings, small personal photos, magazine/newspaper pictures that embody who they are, what they like, or a personal characteristic.
  • Display posters on the wall in your classroom or on a bulletin board.  Students love to see their work displayed.
  • Extension: Integrate technology into the activity by taking digital pictures of your students and display the photos with poster.

 

Writing Pre-Assessment: Letter Writing

What you'll need: Paper and pencil
Trying it in your classroom:

  • Invite students to write a letter to you telling you all about them selves. I have them complete this assignment in class.
  • Since it is a pre-assessment, I do not give my students any pre-instructions such as brainstorming, rough draft, editing, and revision. I really want to get a feel for what they know how to do themselves.
  • My district uses the Six-Trait model for assessing writing (PDF), so I assess students’ papers on the traits: ideas, organization, voice, and conventions.

 

Icebreaker: ME Page

What you'll need: ME Page (PDF), crayons, colored pencils
Trying it in your classroom:

  • Send home the ME Page for homework so students can spend time answering the various questions about themselves.
  • Have students color the "ME" in (be sure that they do not use dark colored crayons because dark colors will prevent their answers from showing through). 
  • You may need to offer students some guidance for questions such as "My best feature." Help them to feel confident about what makes them special.
  • The following day, have each student share three things about him or herself with another classmate. Then invite students to introduce their partner to the rest of the class.
  • For an awesome bulletin board, turn the students' ME Pages into a classroom display.

 

Sharing Knowledge: Survival PowerPoint From Previous Students

I have incoming students create their PowerPoint, and I explain that we'll revise the presentation at the end of the school year so they can add facts and tips they've learned. After the incoming students for this year create their presentations, I will show them a final version done by last year's 6th grade.

What you'll need: Computer lab, Microsoft PowerPoint, agenda book
Trying it in your classroom:

  • Allow students to work in pairs or independently to brainstorm ideas on the topic, “What Every Rising 6th Grader Should Know to be Successful.” 
  • Explain that students are to create 6-12 slides that will include information for their fellow 6th graders on topics such as: schedule, lockers, lunch, lunch detention, canteen, pep rallies, after-school activities, and homework.
  • Students should not create negative slides or slides that are about specific teachers.
  • Students can embed pictures and audio into the presentation at the end.
  • See a sample (PDF) of how my 6th graders structure their PowerPoint presentations.

Low Tech tip: If you do not have computer access, students can complete booklets on the same topics.

 

Multiple Intelligence Survey

What you'll need: Copy of Multiple Intelligence Survey (PDF) , explanation of multiple intelligences (PDF)
Trying it in your classroom:

  • Explain the purpose of the survey to students: I tell my students that I am trying to learn as much as possible about them so I can teach them better and make learning more fun for them.
  • Emphasize that this is not a test, it will not be graded, there are no right/wrong answers.  Encourage them to be honest.
  • Once they have finished the survey and computed their numbers, we discuss the different learning styles and why they are important: visual, auditory, kinesthetic/tactile.

  • Part of Collection:
  • Subjects:
    Arts and Crafts, Creative Writing, Letter Writing, Back-to-School Experiences, Back to School, Understanding Self and Others, Teacher Tips and Strategies
  • Skills:
    Writing
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