Break the Ice and Sprinkle the Seed

I am very happy to take part in the Blog Carnival; mainly for two reasons- it’s my first time I take part in such a carnival, and it’s hosted by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan, a great educator who contributes a lot to her students and to the ELT World. I came across Eva in Blogathon run by the British Council, in February, this year. At that time, I had very little knowledge about blogging and tweeting. It was actually the great friendship I had established with the blog-athletes that got me into the spirit of blogging. My special thanks go to Eva who has instantaneously provided me with help and support at all times. As the new academic year is about to begin, I was thinking of blogging about warmers.  Seeing that Eva was hosting the 24th edition of ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival on 1st of September, I decided to contribute as well. So here we go…

 

 

 [Picture- Courtesy of MarcelGermain]

The first hours of teaching are the most important moments because that is the time when we sprinkle the seed of rapport– “the establishment of common ground of a comfort zone where two or more people can mentally join together ” (Boothman,2005).  No matter how qualified we are as teachers, without rapport, we are unlikely to set up a conductive learning environment. As Boothman (2005) states,” rapport is the lubricant that allows social exchanges to flow smoothly”. Therefore, on the very first day of our classes we need to ‘sprinkle the seeds of rapport’ to ensure that every learner feels comfortable and prepared to learn as part of a group.

 

 

Seeds of rapport:

  • Possessing a positive body language,
  • Speaking in a friendly tone and using positive language,
  • Smiling,
  • Genuinely listening and back-channeling,
  • Having eye-contact,
  • Sharing information about ourselves,
  • Showing genuine interest and empathy,
  • Being flexible,
  • and so on…

I also think that the seating arrangement is as equally important as the elements listed above. I have observed and experienced that placing the chairs in a U-shape form so that everybody can see each other can increase interaction, which subsequently can  influence the classroom atmosphere.

 

Picking the seeds of rapport… putting them in my basket, I  start walking down the corridor with excitement, and my heart starts beating as fast as it did on the very first day of my teaching. This is it! It has been eighteen years now, and the feeling is just the same! This is why I so much love the first days of my classes!
 
I open the door, and greet my students gently…There I am…standing in front of my students… I welcome them by sprinkling a little bit of the seed I have… bit by bit… I, then briefly introduce myself and the course…And now is their turn… I put on some soft music and  go on with some ice-breakers.

 

 

Book of My Life is an ice-breaker I have used a lot.  I first came across this activity  two years ago in BusinessTrainingWorks, which I have adapted  according to our setting. Depending on the age and level of English of the students as well as the content of the course, this activity can be modifed accordingly. I have used this activity with some variations both in my classes and in my training sessions, and both groups have equally enjoyed it a lot.

 

Materials Needed: paper/markers/ pegs/cotton string/ 4-page booklets

First, I prepare the booklets by folding two A4 papers. I, then, staple the sheets in order to form a booklet. (You can also hand out the sheets and instruct students to have them prepare their own booklets in class).

 

I then prepare my own book using colorful markers so that I can share mine with my students as well (*see pictures below).

 

When in class, I show my book of life to the students and tell them that they are going to prepare a similar one by following the instructions I give. I also tell them that they will be asked to introduce their books to the class and that they will hang up their books on the strings with the pegs provided.

The books on the strings really add some nice color to the classroom. I wish I had a picture to share how it looked, but unfortunately, I don’t have it for now. However, I will share it with you once I do it with my new class , I promise:)

All right, let’s now move on to how I do it in class.

I first put on some nice instrumental music. Any piece by Yann Tiersen works pretty well; however, my favorite is “J’y suis jamais allé”, which stimulates plenty of good feelings.  It is also good in that it can act as a stopwatch timer as it only lasts 1:37 minutes, which is a good amount of time  for each page, though more time may be required for page 4 and 7. There, I would suggest using “Comptine D’un Autre Ete L’apres Midi” which lasts 2:35 minutes.

I then hand out a blank booklet and 3-4 markers to each student.  I read out the instructions one by one, each time by referring to the page of my own ‘book of life’. I remind them of the time left and try to make sure that nobody falls behind. There might be some students that finish writing or drawing early; then I ask those students to keep on coloring their page, which they love doing anyway.

The instructions for each page are as following;

  • Choose a title of a song you like the most to name your book. On the front cover of your book, write your name and the name of the song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On page 1, write your place of birth and your star sign.

 

 

 

  • On page 2, write the name of the high school you graduated from (for students)/write a short description of your first job (for teachers).
  • On page 3, write how old you are (for students)/write the number of years you have been working as a teacher (for teachers)
  • On page 4, draw a picture of your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On page 5, write three most important qualities a student should have/ a teacher should have.
  •  On page 6, write three most important principles you follow in your life.
  • On the back cover of the book, draw a picture of what you plan to do when you retire.  Where you will be, who  you will be with, etc.

When all books are complete, I have students tell their stories referring to their books. Depending on the size of the group, I may ask them to get into groups of 4/5 and have them introduce their books to their peers/colleagues.  Then, I elicit what they found most interesting about their peers/colleagues so that everybody in class can get to know about others as well.  When we are done, I tell them to hold their books on the strings with the pegs and ask them walk around to see what others have done.

Variations: Depending on the age and the course content, can change the prompts.  For instance, we can ask them to draw/describe their most exciting moment, favorite food, most exciting vacation, etc.

 

I hope you will like this activity as much as I and my students do.

Make sure that you have a look at Eva Büyüksimkeşyan’s Blog to get some other ideas.

Cheers!