New year. New grade level. Same classroom filled with same amazing kids from last year (along with several lovely new additions). Just wrapped up the seventh day of school and the same question keeps running through my mind… how did I get so lucky? “Looping” (moving up a grade level) with a class that you absolutely adore from the year before is pretty much like winning the “teacher lottery.” Welcome to another year of “Teach it Forward” and a peek into the teaching and learning from Room 212!
One of the main challenges and goals in a looping situation that includes adding a few new students to the already formed group, is to figure out a way to build and rebuild the community that has already taken shape the year before. I searched online, looking for fun games and ice-breaker ideas. I asked colleagues for their best back-to-school, first week team builders. I compiled my list of must-read picture books for our “classroom book-a-day.” I had plenty of fun activities to fill those first few days, but I was still trying to come up with something special that might foster more collaboration.
And then it happened! I was standing at the copier on day #2 printing student photos from day #1, and it was as if a giant light bulb exploded over my head. Seeing all those smiling faces slide through the machine inspired a completely new idea that made me feel giddy! There was a bit of serendipity in the air as the next-up, classroom-book-a-day title happened to be “What Do You Do With an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada.
The plan would be to ask students to think about topics, people, places, basically anything they love to talk about. Next, I would give them a name tag design featuring “Ask me about….” Once students finished writing their list, I would tape it to the backside of their photo and laminate it. And voila! A simple but creative way to do a new greeting during our morning meeting. Students would partner up to exchange their photo conversation cards and use the “Ask me about” lists as conversation starters.
After sharing the idea with my students, they seemed excited and willing to give it a try. Over the years I’ve shared a variety of writing activities that involve students making lists of topics they might like to write about in the future. Without exception, there have always been kids who struggled to generate ideas and sat with pencil in hand, blank paper staring back at them. This time, however, the lists came together in record speed. Maybe it was because I asked them to think about what they wanted to talk about, rather than write about. Maybe it was because they were eager to share their summer memories. Maybe it was because the majority of the class experienced a ton of Joy Write last year and they were more comfortable with taking risks. Whatever the reasons, I was delighted with the results. More importantly, the kids couldn’t wait to share their photo conversation cards.
I have a feeling those “Ask me about” lists will come in handy for some, if not many, of the kids when it comes to writing. I also envision an expansion of the idea, with kids creating photo conversation cards for their favorite book character friends. I can hardly wait to see what Kek (Home of the Brave), Ada (The War That Saved My Life), Mia (Front Desk) or Peter (Pax) might add to their “Ask me about” lists.
And to top it off, my teacher heart was filled with pride and joy to see so many kids add book related topics to their “Ask me about…” lists! Here is a sampling of what we’ll be talking about in Room 212 in the days to come