First Day Activity Idea

It’s been a while since I have had a chance to write a blog post, primarily due to the consumption of my life with the release of my book. [insert shameless plug for Inside the Trenches, out now on]

I wanted to write a quick post about a fun “get to know you activity” I was able to do with my Wake Forest students in one of my classes.  Traditionally, the first day of a college course may involve handing out the syllabus, going around the room saying your name, where you’re from, and why you’re taking the course, and leaving early.  In larger classes the professor may skip it all together and just start teaching.  In K-12 teaching you will see a variety of get to know each other activities, some of which are excellent.  I have been seeing a lot of people using Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate idea using play-do on the first day, which I think is a wonderful one.  I have also used name games in the past, BINGO, scavenger hunts, and “find someone else who has …” type games.

The one I used the other day I think went a bit deeper and had some rigor and self-reflection, but also fun involved (which I am all about).  First, the students watched a wonderful TED Talk video called “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie.  I’m not going to take the time to explain the details of it, but I strongly suggest watching the video.  It’s powerful, and one that many can relate to.

The students watched the video before class, but watching it as a class would be just as, if not more, meaningful.  In class, I explained to the students that each of us, at some point in our lives, will be judged by our single story, for better or for worse, but logic tells us that there are many chapters that make up our lives.

To complete the activity, I used the program Padlet. is an interactive, real-time contribution-based platform.  Think of it as a poster board with a bunch of sticky notes on it, except it’s all done electronically.  I created my pad for the activity and gave each student the URL, so they can access the pad.  (Of course, each student would need to have an electronic device.)  I modeled what I was expecting by putting up the first three chapters of my book (which, of course, included bacon for those who know me).  They then had about five minutes to add the first three or four chapters of their “book.”  Afterwards, I allowed each student to quickly share a couple of reasons why they had those chapter titles.  By the way, the creator of the Pad has administrative rights, so you can delete or edit anything that someone posts (if you’re worried about what kids will put up). 

It was a far more engaging and insightful way for me to get to know the students than what is traditionally done.  We had some good laughs along the way, and it gave me an appreciation for many of the unique stories that make up my class.

If you’d like to check out our pad, click here.


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