First day of class – student introductions.

How do you get students to get to know each other quickly while getting to know them yourself at the same time?

The new school year is almost upon us and we are facing new students soon. For many kinds of classes, there is a huge benefit from students knowing each other well, and from the teacher knowing the students. But how do you achieve that, especially in a large class, without having to spend enormous amounts of class time on it?

There are of course tons of different methods. But one thing that has worked really well for me is to ask a question like “where are you from?” and have people position themselves on an imaginary map (you show which direction is north, but they have to talk to each other to figure out where they have to position themselves relative to the others). For the first question they are usually a bit hesitant, but if you ask three or four, it works really well. For other questions you could ask which of the class topics they are especially interested in, on which topic they have the most knowledge already, or the least, or where they want to go professionally, or what their favorite holiday destination is – all kinds of stuff. Depending on the level of the class, you can ask questions more on the topic of the class or more on a personal level.

This is highly interactive because you always have to talk to people to find your own position, and it is very interesting to see how the most complex configurations of students form, representing maps to scale even though some people might live in the same city whereas other people are from a different continent, for example.

The best thing is that it is a lot easier to remember stuff like “oh, those two used to live really close to where I am from, we were all clustered together for that question”, “those two are interested in exactly the same stuff as I am because they were right next to me when the question was x”, … than to recall that information from when everybody had to introduce themselves one after the other.

I really like this method, give it a try! And don’t be discouraged if students are hesitant at first, they will get into it at the second or third question. And getting them up and moving does wonders for the atmosphere in the room and makes it a lot more comfortable for you, too, to stand in front of a new class.

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