Photo from Flickr.com, credit Alan Cleaver, under Creative Commons License.
What’s one thing that makes my class unique?
We play Two Truths and a Lie.
Let me explain. I teach 150+ kids each semester (which means I get new ones in January). I used to think that my job was to teach the material, and the kids didn’t need to like me for that mission to be accomplished. It doesn’t matter what they think of me. That’s not my job, so I reasoned. But thanks to reading awesome books like The Essential 55, The Excellent 11 (both by Ron Clark), and most important, Teaching with Love and Logic (Jim Fay and David Funk), I now know that’s completely and totally false. Here’s the truth: You can’t teach students until they like you.
Getting to know my students has become a major part of what teaching means to me now. The Mr. Chase of eight years ago would never have done a get-to-know you activity at all, since it takes valuable instructional time.
The trouble is, it’s super hard to get to know 150 students in one semester. Even learning their names is a monumental task. The cursory get-to-know-you activity on the first day is cool, and better than nothing, but can you really get to know 150 students in ONE DAY? I still do a little mini, fun first-day activity. But here’s an additional, deeper activity that I’ve come to love.
On the first day of class I hand out index cards. I don’t ask students for their information anymore. I can get their parents names, email addresses, phone numbers, address, and more, through our school’s database, just as you probably can. So asking for that information is a waste of time as far as I’m concerned–it’s just busy work for them. Instead, on their index card, I ask them to write their name and Two Truths and a Lie. They can give it to me after the 45 minute period is over. I tell them they can work on it while I’m going over the syllabus, if they find me boring. They can even turn it in the next day if they really want to craft an excellent set of statements that will fool their classmates.
Have you ever played this game? Here’s how it works: You write down three statements about yourself, two of which are true and one of which is false. Then people try to guess which statement is the false statement. Students share things that are interesting and unusual–things their closest friends in the class might not even know.
“I speak four languages”
“I have two dogs and a turtle.”
“My grandmother lives in Portugal.”
“I’ve never broken a bone.”
“I’ve been to five continents.”
“I’m a black-belt in Jujitsu.”
“I don’t like chocolate.”
“My dog’s name is Bubbles.”
When you play this at parties, it takes a while–a minute or two for each person. And of course you want to discuss the results afterward. “What languages do you speak??” “Okay, your dog’s name isn’t Bubbles. But do you have a dog? What kind is it? What is its name?”
So if it takes a while, and you want to take your time, how do you fit it into class time? Well, I have a stack of them at the front of the room and whenever we have extra time, throughout the first month or two of school, we pull a random card (or a few) and meet that student. I say “Today we’re going to meet Robert…everyone say hi Robert!” and everyone says “HI ROBERT!!” (way less corny when it actually happens; don’t worry they love it!). Then we read Robert’s card, and on the second reading everyone is required to raise their hand upon hearing the statement they think is false. Great fun. And afterward we ask Robert some follow-up questions.
It’s a fun activity and lets us genuinely get to know one another and learn very unique things about each other. I give them my own Two Truths and a Lie on the first day of class as an example:
1. I’ve done tricks on a flying trapeze.
2. I lived in Peru for a year.
3. My parents have chickens in their backyard.
(Feel free to make guesses as to which of my statements is a lie.)
This was a unique idea to my class, but some of my other teacher friends have adopted it now, so perhaps it doesn’t qualify anymore.
This blog post was in response to the prompt, “What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours?” which I was encouraged to answer as I participate in the Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere challenge. More challenges to come! (And more blog posts, I’m sure!)
Happy Metric Day, by the way!