I have mixed feelings about Getting to Know you tasks in real world teaching. I do use them, but it really depends on the class, their age and ability. For example, if you walk into a corporate client, where all your students have worked together for years, the only person who’s a stranger is you – the teacher. Many of my real world classes have come up through the levels together and they all know each other for the most part and this is why what I tend to do in my first lessons is more about rapport building than “Getting to know you” per se.
So with that caveat in mind… when I do feel the need to introduce myself I often use the True False Sentences about teacher routine: e.g. I give the class the following information (or dictate it, depending on age & ability):
- I’m Canadian.
- I’m 28 years old.
- I’m married and I have a young daughter (called Gillian).
- I have been a teacher for five years.
- I lived in Poland for two years.
- I speak Chinese.
- My favourite football team is AC Milan.
- My favourite rock group is Pink Floyd.
- My ambition is to write a successful novel.
- My parents own five dogs.
The learners, in pairs, decide which are true and which are false and then ask me questions to ascertain the answers.
They then write their own list of true / false statements which are posted round the room and the other learners decide which are right and which are wrong.
Adapting this for an online environment is somewhat tricky as the interaction would largely be uni-directional (i.e. T-SSa / T-SSb / T-SSc etc) and probably not even that, because after all if you do this on an asynchronous board, you only need one person to ask the initial questions and then the answers are there for everyone else to read…
So to adapt….
You could turn the tables and rather than provide ten sentences, get participants to create their own list of ten true false sentences for you – though this makes the focus very teacher centered and defeats the purpose somewhat.
I think the best way to do it would be to ask participants to post one truth and one lie about each of the other participants on the course. This would involve information discovery via private messaging and some degree of creativity and humour which would help to engender the right kind of atmosphere. The people can respond to each other’s posts and say which they think is the truth or not.
I can see this getting very fragmented and unwieldy though.
So a possible variation might be to ask people to post two or three images, one of which should reflect something of importance in their lives and the other of which should not. The rest of the group can then speculate on which things are more important to the poster or not.
However, this last one is the one I think I like most – it is relatively simple, introduces participants to a great online tool and should be (a) revealing (b) fun (c) easy.
- Send participants to http://www.wordle.net/create
- Ask them to cut and paste the contents of their CV into the wordle and click Go.
- Suggest they play around with the formatting until they find something they like.
- Get them to post the wordle image in the forums
- Ask them to visit each others wordles and then make predictions about their lives based on the information they see there.
- They can then also confirm or deny the predictions made about themselves
This has nothing to do with the original activity that I thought of, but now that I’ve come up with it, I’m going to adapt it for use in the real world and try it with my next set of new classes! This would be great for business groups!