Get to Know You Gallery Walk

You know it’s going to be a long day when your students can’t talk about anything except what they’re going to do over the long weekend – and it’s only Monday.

Between lesson plans and grading, planning a yearbook theme and preparing for back-to-school night, it’s easy to just get sucked into the whirlwind of the work week. Time flies and, before you know it, your students are racing for the parking lot on Friday afternoon.

But every now and then, a moment stops you and tells you to just slow down and enjoy yourself.  It’s important to embrace those moments.  It’s in them that relationships are formed and you begin to build trust with your students.

My frosh classes had a quiz today.  Generally I like to follow up a quiz with an independent assignment.  That way, students can work at their own paces and they each have something to work on once they finish.  Today was a bit different though. Last week when I informed the classes that we’d have a quiz on Monday, they told me that many of their other classes were giving tests and quizzes as well.  I hated to add to their stress, so I promised them some “lighter work” after the quiz.

So after the quiz, we did a little in-school service and I sent the girls around to take out the classroom recycling bins.  I consider this one of those moments I mentioned earlier. It’s easy to get caught up in the work. In the curriculum. In the grades. It’s easy to want to plow onward. To get caught up in our own goals. To forget that learning is a cooperative act. And that students are much more willing to cooperate if they know they are respected, cared for and part of a team.

So I slowed down. I took a moment to do something else and it was a good experience for all of us.  The students got a well-deserved break during a stressful day. The teachers got their recycling cleared (yay!). And it gave me the opportunity to get to know some of my students better – which ones jumped right into the task, which were hesitant, which had the most fun with it.

After the recycling was taken care of, we began the last of the icebreakers I use with the frosh.  Last week, I assigned them each to create an “About Me Collage”. I showed them an example of my own and required them to include specifics about their families, interests/hobbies/skills and virtues.  They were encouraged to decorate the collage and to use pictures.  I use Interactive Student Notebooks with my freshmen so the collages go on the first page.

So today we did an About Me Gallery Walk.  I asked for nine volunteers to share their collages (we will do three sessions of this activity, so everyone will take a turn eventually).  The nine volunteers each claimed a spot around the classroom as their station.  The rest of the class was divided into pairs. Each pair took a turn at each of the stations where the volunteer shared their collages.  90 seconds per station and then we rotate.

My class requires a lot of collaborative work among the students, so I want them to learn a little about one another.  This icebreaker is a fun no-stress activity that allows them to do so.  I take a turn at each station also and make it a point to comment on each student’s collage.

Seems as though the school year is in full-swing now.  Grading, planning, prepping, and writing another article for the school’s publications (this one was on an award the yearbook staff just received) = 11 hours today.


Highlights from the First Day of Classes

Today was the first day of classes…finally.  This is the beginning of my ninth year as a teacher and I still feel the nerves, excitement and stress of the first day. And even though I know to expect it and I try to prepare myself, I’m still surprised be the bone-weary feeling of exhaustion after the first day.  It’s 8:40pm and I’m feeling like my brain could turn to mush any second now; so for today’s post, here are a few highlights from the first day of school.


Starting the day and year off right! StuCo brought a little treat to every teacher.

  1. I played a new icebreaker with my two sections of sophomores – silent interviews.  Basically I paired the students up randomly and they had to “tell” their partner about themselves silently.  It was like charades but the clues were all about themselves.  And it was hilarious.  They were laughing.  I was laughing. And in the end, each pair introduced one another, said what they think they learned about their partner and cleared up any miscommunications.   Seriously, so much fun.
  2. Lots of laughs when my freshmen classes tried to guess information about me during a “get to know the teacher” game. I loved hearing them come out of their shells and work together on the questions.  I intentionally drop hints about the answers in all of our previous encounters and it’s fun to hear them proudly recalling the info. “Guys, she went to France this summer. I’m sure of it.”  “She likes to read, right?  Maybe her dog is named after her favorite hobbit.” Just a note – this icebreaker is the only one where I am the primary focus.  I only use this one with my frosh, since they don’t know me and it fits perfectly in my first day activities.  It’s non-intimidating because it doesn’t put any of them on the spot, but it allows them the opportunity to work collaboratively as a class.  Just wanted to put that disclaimer out there. I don’t have a huge ego, I swear. 😉
  3. There is something so exciting about having seniors on their first day of their last year.  They just have such a hopeful energy about them right now.  College stress isn’t at its max yet and senioritis hasn’t kicked in.  They’re just enjoying their moment.  It’s refreshing (if only it weren’t also so fleeting). 

There were probably more great things that happened but, honestly, I’m out for the night.  I’m going to watch an hour of mindless reality tv and then go to bed.

11.5 hours on the first day of school.




Easy, Quick Ice Breaker

Quick post today – on my way to the other job as SuperSalesGal.

After my long day yesterday, I was able to enjoy a leisurely morning.  Took my time getting ready.  It’s a big day after all – meeting my frosh for the first time!

I got to school just in time for our department meeting.  We discussed department goals and a department-wide reflection assignment on the school motto.  We spent some time together in prayer and our department chair updated us on the latest news from academic council.  

After the meeting, I had time to grab a little lunch before heading back to the classroom to meet my freshmen for the the first time.  

At our school, the freshmen have a three day orientation program that acclimates them to the school before classes start.  It’s lead by some of the seniors and involves many different sessions and activities.  One of the activities is a dry run of the schedule.  Each freshman follows her personal schedule; this allows them to get a feel for how they will need to get from one building to another.  It also allows the freshmen a chance to meet their teachers in a relaxed and fun setting.

We had 12 minutes with each of our classes.  As my students entered, I had each of them grab a question from the “Chat Pack”.  The Chat Pack is a set of cards I found that has funny and thought-provoking questions.  Each student took a question and I gave them a minute to think about their answer.  They could trade out for a different card if they wanted to.  Then I called on them one at a time and they shared their answer with the class.  I made jokes with them and praised their answers.  It was the perfect way to fill the 12 minutes and I think they had fun listening to one another’s answers.  

After that, I went on a hunt for new desks.  I have large classes this year and the huge desks I had were taking up way too much space.  Luckily we found some smaller ones in the attic and the maintanence guys have agreed to bring them over tomorrow.  So I spent a little time moving out the old ones with the help of a coworker and several students.  

I added another update to the freshman class website and called it a day.  6 hours for me today.  

I’ll leave you with a pic of the Chat Pack.


Day One

So my idea is to try to track my time, outside of the general school day hours, that I spend working on “school stuff”. I’m not counting any work I’ve done before August 1 – mainly because I didn’t think of this blog until today. So I know this entry will say it’s posted on August 2, but you’ll just have to take me on my honor that the work I describe was all completed yesterday. I swear on my lesson plan book. 😉

I only worked on “school stuff” for about 3 hours yesterday (midnight until 3am, actually). I would’ve liked to get into my classroom, but I was there the day before and the janitors told me I wouldn’t be able to get in again until next week. Le sigh. So I brought out my lesson plan book and laptop and worked from home.

I have a new prep this year, so I spent the 3 hours creating the website, writing the syllabus and planning the first unit’s lessons. None of those projects are finished though, so more on them as I progress.

One task I was able to complete was preparing an ice breaker game for the first week of class. Here’s the background:

My new prep is the sophomore level Scriptures course. I also teach theology to freshmen and seniors and advise the yearbook program.  I wanted to come up with a couple of new ice breakers to play with the sophomores because some of them already played my usual ones last year.  Plus they already know each other somewhat, so we don’t have to focus so much on basic name memorization. I adapted this one from a list I found on Pinterest.  The original was designed to be played like a board game and I thought it would be awesome to create a “SmartBoardgame”. Fun, right? Unfortunately the board game  template wouldn’t play nice and it was 3 am, so I adjusted the plan a bit.

Here’s the finished product.

get to know throw

The idea is that the students will throw a ball at the SmartBoard and it will bring up a random question that they will then need to answer. Like this…

get to know throw question 2get to know throw question

Simple, silly and fun.  I won’t use this on the first day of class; I’ll use a more interactive icebreaker that day.  My school is on a partial block schedule though, so I think this will be a great break during our first block class.

Here’s the template I ended up using.  It looks like it was designed with a younger age group in mind, but if it goes well with my class, I may end up using it for a review game from time to time.  I think it may be a keeper!

So 1 day into our countdown between summers and the total stands at 3 hours of planning and prep work.