The attached Getting to Know You document lists 20 facts that are true about me, but I do not tell students this up front. At the end of the activity, they discover it for themselves as we review their findings and they start to realize how many different items students have me listed for on their papers. In this way, they learn as much about me as I do about them. Edit the paper to fit your own circumstances and be sure to join in the fun with your students.
After the worksheets are passed out, I review the directions with students and take time to encourage them to try and not list anyone's name more than once. This inspires their competitive edge and gets them talking with people they don't know. As they circulate around the room, I listen in to the conversations and get students talking about their own experiences by asking questions. This type of modeling will help shy students feel more comfortable talking to others.
After 10 minutes or so have students return their seats and debrief by asking questions such as: Any surprises? What did you notice? What was the most interesting thing you found out about someone? Which items were easiest to fill in? Which the hardest? You can also have students count up how many different names appear on their lists (not how many items are filled in because many will have repeated names) and write that number on the paper. Ask everyone with 10 names or more to stand up (start with a low number so that everyone is on their feet), then slowly raise the number until only one person is left standing.
Don't forget to reveal that all the items on the paper are true about you and that they have had a chance to get to know you better too.
For this activity I assign student partners to be sure that no one is left out and to give each person the chance to get to know someone new. This time I used the attendance list and matched the first two boys, then the first two girls, and so on down the list making any necessary switches.
An added benefit of this activity is that not only do students begin to become comfortable speaking in front of the group, it gives me an idea of their ability to organize information logically during an impromptu oral presentation.
To get started, each student writes the name of the person they will interview at the top of the worksheet and their own name at the bottom. Ask they ask their partner questions, the interviewers fill in each section with information provided by the interviewees. When the interview is complete, interviewers choose the 3 or 4 most interesting items about their partner. They prepare and practice a short speech to introduce that person to the group. Encourage students to be creative and not simply read off the worksheet as if it were a shopping list. An example appears here.
When everyone is ready, clear a section of the room and have students move their chairs so that everyone is seated in a large circle. Ask for volunteers and have each set of partners share about one another. Be sure to complement the ones who go first! And point out all the things they do right in order to set expectations for those that come later.
Once every partner group has shared, debrief by asking students if they noticed any trends. How are we alike? How are we different? Etc For some added fun and as a a sure way to surprise your students, collect the papers and hold on to them until the last of day of the school year. Then read them one at a time without stating the person's name and have students guess who is described. It is amazing how often they do not recognize their own work!
Homework on the first day of school offers students a chance to reflect on their experience. Teachers get to know their students' likes and dislikes, successes and challenges, and get a first glimpse at how well students follow directions. Some thoughts on this assignment appear here: