One of my favorite activities for the beginning of the year is to learn every student’s name and hobby. I have students make a list of their 10 favorite things to do in life. They make the list in English at first and then it gets translated into the target language.
I start with one student and ask them what they like to do and they tell me the first thing on their list. I ask how many other people have that activity on their list of ten. If they have it on their list they raise their hand. I count the number of kids and we graph the data.
This is a great way to connect to math and gives the kids something to do while listening to me count and repeat the hobbies over and over again. I am also purposely making connections between students with similar hobbies and interests. I go around the room, one student at a time, asking their name and favorite thing to do and then poll the class to see if they have that activity on their list. If a student’s favorite hobby has already been graphed, they can choose any activity on their list that has not been mentioned yet. I continually go back to the first student and say their name and hobby and continue around the room until I can say every child’s name and hobby from memory. The kids are impressed that I can do it and then they realize they can do it too.
For one of our first quizzes of the year I can say number one and point to a student. They write down their name and hobby in the target language and we continue until all students have been listed.
Another way I create classroom connections is with a recipe file holder and index cards. An entry task on the first day of school is to write your name on an index card and list 3 facts about yourself. I collect these cards and put a rubber band around the class set and store them in a recipe file on my desk.
Each day I pick an interesting fact from someone’s card and read it to the class. For example it might say “I have been to Hawaii.” I say anyone who has been to Hawaii stand up. Everyone who has been to Hawaii stands up and we make connections around the room. I can ask follow up questions like which island, with whom, what did you do? I can say anyone who wants to go to Hawaii stand up. Then have everyone sit down and pick another card. I purposely look for things that I think a lot of people have in common, point out the connections, and look for opportunities for spontaneous interpersonal communication. I do a few each day until I have used a statement from everyone at least once. I also use these cards to randomly call on kids or form groups, like Popsicle sticks, but cheaper and easier to store for five classes.
Another way to make connections is the game I call Te presento a in Spanish and Je te présente in French. Have the students make a name tag and stand in a circle. I start in the middle. I say Je te présente and say a student’s name. The students on either side of the named child race to wave and say “Bonjour” to the other child. The slowest of the two moves to the center of the circle and becomes the next caller. This forces kids to listen for the names of the kids on either side of them. After a few minutes have everyone find a new spot so they are next to different people and listening for other names.
When I was in high school I won a scholarship to a Dale Carnegie Course on Public Speaking and Human Relations from Junior Achievement. This course was life changing for me. In particular, I have always remembered these quotes.