Advent Calendar Day 1: Welcoming your students

In a series: ADEPT Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar 2016
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In Day 1 of ADEPT's Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar, Emma Kennedy shares one way to welcome new students.

This is the Day 1 post of ADEPT’s Teaching and Learning Calendar, sent as an email on December 1st 2016.

Image shows two puppies, one lying down diagonally facing towards the camera, the other one facing it side on and biting its ear.

Welcome

Many thanks for subscribing to ADEPT’s Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar! We hope you enjoy both the innovative teaching ideas and the entertaining pictures.

The first teaching idea in the Advent Calendar is an excellent way of welcoming students into your class at the start of term or the semester. I call it the ‘Name Line’ but others refer to it as the ‘Name Game’ (this can also refer to a lot of other things, including other games – hence my alternative name). The idea of this is that it helps students learn each other’s names, as long as you’re in a group of 15 people or fewer.

Get the students to stand in a circle, or a line in any shape that fits your classroom. Get the first person to say their name and something they like (this could be their favourite book if it’s an English Literature class; a historical figure; something about them; where they grew up). For example, “My name is Emma and my favourite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”  The next person has to repeat that and add their own: for example, “Emma’s favourite book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My name is Algernon and my favourite book is How to Avoid Huge Ships.”  

Continue down the line or around the circle in this vein. You might want to be harsh and have anyone who makes a mistake be out, but in this context it’s usually more fun (and a better icebreaker) to laugh at mistakes and just have the group remind the person who’s made a mistake/forgotten.

It might take a little while, but this is a fantastic way to build a sense of community within a seminar group: there’s nothing more awkward than students interacting with one another but not remembering names, or simply not interacting at all. Welcoming students in this way helps create a foundation for informal interaction throughout the course.

For a wide range of icebreakers, including some that are more suitable for large groups, here’s a great resource from the University of Virginia.

Thanks again for subscribing and I hope you have a great December!

Emma Kennedy