Sunday, July 20, 2014


Circle of Life - First Day Activity

This is a simple, "Getting to know you," activity that I have also incorporated into my literature classes.

While it was not designed to focus on grammar points it does fit nicely into:
Questions"Is it _________?"
"Do you ____________?"
"Are you _____________?"
Tag Questions (if you wish)
"You're 21, aren't you?"
Simple Present / Simple Past
You have three cats.
You learned to ride a bike at 15. 

To start I make a large circle on the board and put random numbers in it. For example 32, 29, 4, 1, 18, etc. To add some variety you can add words or sketches as well.

Then I have students guess what these numbers are. A sample interaction could go like this:
Student 1: "You are 32 years old."
Me: "Great guess, but nope. I am not 32 years old yet."
Student 2: "You have 32 boyfriends."
Me: "No, that's far too many."
I let this continue as long as students are interested. If the questions start dying down, and no one has the correct answer, I tell them "I've travelled to 32 countries"

Then we continue with the next number.
29- I am 29 years old
4- My parents had four children.
1- I have one cat.
18- I crashed my car at 18.

Make sure your example has variety! If everyone just has their address, and how old they are it gets old very fast! However, if you have some unique experiences, it makes this a lot more fun.

Some numbers my students used:
How many times they had been to the USA.
How old they were when they first left the country.
How many years they have studied English.
When they started studying English.
How old their pet is.
How many languages they speak.

I have students first make their circle at their desk on a notecard or scrap paper. Then I ask for volunteers who would like to present.Note: When I do this it is very rare that the entire class presents. You could also do it in small groups if you want to make sure everyone presents, but I don't like forcing students to the front of the class on day one. This is a good way to see what students will be volunteering, what students will be asking questions and what students may need a little prodding.

Students like this way of getting to know one another. It is more dynamic than just standing up and introducing themselves!

This is also a great activity to use when talking about characters. Students (or the teacher) can use it to get the rest of the class to guess what numbers are significant for any character from a novel, or an author. I like to put students in small groups and assign each group a different character. This lets them collaborate.

This activity is great because it creates disequilibrium. The random seemingly unrelated numbers and words don't make a clear patter. Students are forced to create equilibrium by creating sensible patterns and associations for them. Even when students guess incorrectly they are still forced to reason and more likely to remember the real numbers significances. This process makes the answers stick in their brains more effectively than if they were simply told all the facts at the beginning.

You can adapt it in MANY ways. Get specific. Tell them that they have to make the circle about their family, school, summer vacation, favorite movies, etc. Students will be able to do this on almost any topic if you give them guidance.

What's your favorite, "Get to know you" activity to use with your students?

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