In preparation for the first day of school, I tape playing cards to the upper corner of all of the desks in my room. I arrange my desks in groups of 4, as I like to get students working together on the very first day.
Using a second deck of cards, I greet each student at the door and hand them a card that matches a card taped to a desk. To find their seat, they must find the match.
The photo attached in this section shows the supplies the students will find on their desk:
Display on the projector or have on the board the following instructions:
Allow students to work on their name tents while you take attendance.
Once roll is taken and everyone has focused their attention on me, I model the partner introduction activity.
I begin by asking, "Is there something you DON'T know about me? Raise your hand if you can tell me something you don't know about me."
Ideally, students will raise their hands (sometimes with prompting) and say things like, "I don't know how many children you have." or "I don't know what flavor of ice cream is your favorite." If someone tries to be funny and say, "I don't know how old you are" or "I don't know how much you weigh," I will nod and smile at the statement like I did at all the others. Never fear, it is a teachable moment.
Once the initial flurry of hands has waned, I respond to as many as the statements as I can, "I have two children. I love mint chip ice cream. I grew up in California." Once I've responded to a few (not all) of their "I don't know" statements, I ask who would like to practice introducing me.
I give them the frame of "This is Mrs. Withers. She loves mint chip ice cream." I let a few kids try this.
Now it's time to stop and reflect. I ask, "What did you notice about my responses?" More often than not, someone will point out that I didn't respond to every single "I don't know" statement.
I congratulate that student for noticing the teachable moment. We then talk about how, as the responder, I get to choose which statements I respond to. This way I don't have to reveal anything about myself that I don't want to share. I certainly am not going to tell a room full of 12-year-olds how much I weigh!
I then have students do this activity with an elbow partner. 90 seconds for the "I don't knows" and then 90 seconds for responses will suffice. The students then reverse roles. After one more "I don't know" and response set, I ask students to take 90 seconds to practice introducing their partner, using the sentence frame that was used to introduce me. Students may write a notes to help them along; however, I prefer that students practice making eye contact with their audience.
Before the students begin their short presentations, it's a good idea to go over "good audience" etiquette. Even though we have not established class procedures and agreements, this is a perfect time to remind students that they should show they are listening attentively through their body language and silence. I always encourage polite applause.
This is the beginning of many class discussions that will end in presentation to the whole group. As we move forward, students will also gain practice in citing a text in discussion and presentation.
Each pair of students stands at their desks and introduces the other to the class.
There are a few variations you can play with:
The timing on this activity is very short. Inevitably, the first day is filled with assemblies, locker jams, and lost and tardy students. In some smaller classes I have completed this activity with time to spare. In that case, you can mix the students up (shuffle those cards and hand them out again!) and have a new partner to introduce!