I use a fun activity called JOY to get students to introduce themselves to the entire class. I like using this activity because the title suggests something very positive, which is the connotation I want to attach to this class from the get go. I also like it because the three pieces of information it calls for, which are represented by the tree letters of the word, are open ended. This invites creativity and allows student personalities to come forth. The letters stand for the following:
J = something that JUST happened
O = ONE thing you would like to do for yourself
Y = something that makes you YOU
I write this on the board. It looks clear enough, but students who are uncomfortable with open-ended requests will feel confused and ask things like, “What do you mean? Something that happened today?” I simply say that these are open-ended and that it is up to them to decide how far back to go for this first one. I share that I have had students who share something that happened in the summer.
I tell students they will get some time to think of the things they want to share and that they will be taking turns presenting this information. I give them an example of what is expected in the presentation by sharing three things about myself. I have shared different things in past years. This year I shared the following:
Something that just happened is that I just started working in a new school.
One thing I’d like to do for myself is go to sleep earlier now that the summer is over.
Something that makes me ME is the fact that I have 5 sisters and no brothers.
These details make my students ask me follow up questions, especially the third one. That detail about my personal life always shocks them. I engage it for a bit and share a few more things about myself, such as the fact that I have a child and that my child is a boy.
Students get the point. I give them a few minutes to write down what they are going to share.
I give every student the opportunity to share what they have written on their paper. They all use the same sentence starters I use, which makes it quite easy for them to share. My job during this time is to make sure everyone is giving the presenter their undivided attention, which sets the right tone for future activities where students express their ideas in large groups. I conduct this activity making an effort to strike the right balance between formality and light-hearted enjoyment. I need students to know that I am serious about making this a safe place in which they can all express their thoughts. At the same time, I want to acknowledge the creative and humorous responses and allow us all to enjoy learning about each other. The details they share for J range from “I fell off a horse this summer” to “I just met new people.” For O, I have heard many students state that they would like to get a high school diploma, although there are the lighter statements, such as the student who said he would like to buy himself a milkshake. I also get a glimpse of their interests and talents. I hear students presenting themselves as artists and musicians. I have a students who said that one thing that makes her unique is that she can speak with a British accent. I really appreciate hearing these details.
Besides their personal introductions using the JOY activity, I also wish to get an initial sense of their language skills. I explain that in this class, one major goal is obviously to strengthen their language skills, which includes the Common Core domains of reading, writing, speaking and listening. I write these four on the board and ask students to reflect on their ability and willingness to engage in work related to these four domains. Specifically, I ask them to select the one domain they like the most or that comes easy for them and explain that in a short paragraph. Similarly, I ask them to select the one domain they dislike the most or that is the most challenging for them and to also explain it in short paragraph. I give them the option because I know some will want to say they don't like engaging in work related to any of the four domains. Those students can, instead, write about the domain that is the easiest for them even if they dislike engaging with that kind of work. I ask students to write both paragraphs on the same paper where they wrote the information they presented during the JOY activity and to turn it in by the end of the period.