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Week One – Safety First

May 30, 2012

Week One – Safety First

It’s week one and we are enjoying the familiar sounds of students rushing to class. As you are organizing your calendar, syllabus, and week one activities, be sure to remember Safety. The immediate association to the word safety might conjure visions of tripping over book bags or parking lot security, but safety also includes the non-physical environment. The classroom needs to be a safe place for sharing ideas, collaborating, and critical thinking. One way to address these competencies is to encourage intentional discussion.

Establish a safe environment for collaboration and critical thinking by incorporating discussion as often as possible. This week you may choose an ice breaker to get students talking. There are many benefits to discussion including exploring diversity, investigating assumptions, respectful listening, developing voice, democratic discourse, synthesis and integration, and transformation. All of these competencies fit nicely into our mission to develop critical thinkers.

Here is one suggestion for an ice breaker this week:

  1. Type up your favorite words, one word per paper. (Examples: accountability, critical thinking, power, listening, dynamic, budget, leadership, catalyst, responsibility, technology, collaboration, success, etc.)
  2. Place the words on the desks, if possible, prior to the students entering class. This is a preference, although often it is hard to get to class before students.  
  3. Students will choose where to sit, some may even avoid sitting somewhere because of the word, this is also something you can discuss when you debrief the activity. Make sure you have enough words for each student to get one. (If you really want to have fun, have enough words for the students to put three together and create a story.)
  4. Once you are ready to begin, explain the expectations. Say something like, “You will find a word on your desk. I would like you to think for 30 seconds about that word. Then as we go around the room, you will tell the class something about the word, what it means to you, what it made you think about, maybe how it relates to you and your work. Everyone will participate and your goal is simply to have a thought and share it. There aren’t any right or wrong answers here. We are just building our community.”
  5. In the end, debrief the activity by asking questions. You will find out who your talkers are, who wants to avoid you, who likes to collaborate, who doesn’t. Use this as feedback to help you design future discussions. Open the discussion to people wishing they had another word, or wanting to piggyback onto what someone else said. Encourage everyone to use names and learn everyone’s names.
  6. Thank everyone for participating, explain that discussion and collaboration are important tenants of developing thinking and then introduce your lesson.

If you try this activity, please post back on the Learning Commons and let us know how it went!

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