A Get to Know You Activity With a Heartfelt Message

This is a guest post by Maggie Maslowski, English teacher at Joliet West High School, Illinois. Her class Twitter account is @jthsmaslowski and they use the hashtag #jthsmas

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            Every new school year, teachers introduce themselves, their rules, routines, and expectations to the students. Many encourage the students to say a little about themselves.  Those first days have a lot of first day jitters.  The teachers might be anxious meeting new students and trying to learn all their names and faces quickly. The students are nervous about saying or doing anything awkwardly.

I joined Twitter on July 26, 2013. I was skeptical, but quickly learned that Twitter is a teaching tool that allows me into the classrooms and minds of many extraordinary educators.  I learned more that first month I joined Twitter than I have learned in many years of courses and professional development, and I feel I’m contributing a little of my own successes.

Here is information about a beginning of the year activity that this year has been extraordinary with the addition of the You Matter message.

Students created a Poster about themselves to showcase in the classroom that I call a PDF because it stands for:

  • Proud Moment,
  • Dream Goals, and
  • Favorites.

Students wrote down their Proudest Moments to show off how amazing they are, their Dream Goals to ensure that they kept their eyes on the prize, and their Favorites to show their individual personalities that will enhance our classroom. They also added a favorite picture of themselves that was semi-current so that we could match their face with their name. This activity was a way to allow them to truly think about who they were and what made them who they are today. They were creating this for an authentic audience because their classmates would see these every day, and parents would see them on Open House. It was their creation where they were able to make many personal decisions about how it looked and were given a few days to think about it before we had class time to finalize the masterpieces that would be referred to as their PDFs.

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Students were given a blank sheet that had the four boxes that needed to be filled out.

  • Proud Moments
  • Dream Goals
  • Favorites
  • Own Picture
Students could choose from a variety of colored cardstock and be creative with their final product. Daily, more and more PDFs were posted on the board. Students were excited to come in and see them.

 

Students LOVED being able to show their creativity in English.  They weren’t just filling out a worksheet or writing a small paragraph for me…that might be put away in some file folder and never showcased.  They had an authentic audience: their peers and their parents!

Every day, students came to class and went to the WE MATTER wall to see whose picture was up next. And, their excitement showed when their own picture was up or one of their friends.  They wanted to come to my class and they felt like they mattered.  They do Matter and so do their Dreams and their Proud Moments. They learned a LOT about one another those first few weeks of school and shared each other’s Proud Moments.  The PDFs were definite conversation starters, and the excitement continued each day into each lesson.

I loved coming to class every day and learning more and more about my students. They were excited as well.  They were well-behaved.  They felt they mattered.  And, to tell you the truth, we just finished week 4 of school and My Behavior Log is empty.  I have classes filled with students who want to be in my class and I feel like I’m facilitating learning not managing behavior.  Showing my students that this is THEIR classroom, not just MY classroom.  They MATTER here, their OPINION counts, THEIR voice is heard, and they have CHOICES.  Though the door says “Mrs. Maslowski,” my WE MATTER wall is filled with my STUDENTS’ faces, dreams, goals, and favorites.

They are what makes the classroom successful and I hope the joy of being in my classroom continues throughout the year. Open House was earlier this week and I don’t usually have many parents who attend this event.  This year was different.  Students brought their parents and wanted to show them their picture, but only after introducing me.

It was amazing to hear from many parents: “My child hated school, but I had to meet the teacher who is his favorite!” And “My daughter told me you’re the best English teacher she ever had!” It was heart-warming to hear that, and we are only into the first month of school. I hope their love for English class keeps growing!

When Angela Maiers asked me to do a post for my PDF activity, I was extremely honored and I decided to survey my students with Socrative, to get their opinion of the worth of the PDFs we completed. Here are some of their comments:

  • “Working on the PDFs made me realize my goals and gave me motive to work towards my goals.” (Allison)
  • “It has made me want to work harder in English class.” (Angela)
  • “Taking the time to work on the PDFs have impacted the way I work in English class because one of my goals is to go to college and in English class I am trying to work to harder than I can.” (Kylee)
  • “Yes because I’m showing her the type of person I am and the type of person I will be this year.” (Steve)
  • “Yes because I feel more motivated to get work done.” (Brian)
  • “Yes, because the PDFs really help you think better of yourself and show that you really matter.” (Alicia)
  • “Yes because it reminds me of the goals I set for myself to become successful.” (Waleed)

I am truly grateful for my students and for starting off the school year positively and successfully.  We are motivated to Learn and Teach one another because WE MATTER. I hope this activity can be as successful for another teacher, as it has been for me!

 

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  • Sarah M.

    Thanks for posting! I look forward to using this activity with my advisees!

  • Priscille K

    What a brilliant way to get to know your students! :) I think that it’s so important that our kids feel truly and deeply heard, especially in today’s world where there is a lot of background noise (texting, facebook, tv,…). Half of the battle towards knowledge is already won when students feel worthwhile. Thanks for sharing.

  • Maggie Maslowski

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love that others are being touched by this assignment. It’s a small, short activity that has been extremely powerful through the You Matter message that Angela Maiers showcases. Students are engaged in class and motivated to work when they truly feel that they Matter and that their work Matters. I’m honored to be on this website. Thank you Angela, and Thanks Priscille for leaving a comment! It really matters to me to hear your voice and your opinion.

  • Maggie Maslowski

    I would love to hear how it goes? Tweet me @maggiemaslowski and let me know how successful you were! I look forward to hearing all about it.

  • Eiren

    Our alternative school does something similar, a Strengths board. Students and staff have the opportunity to present their board in a short presentation during morning assembly. We include the Authentic Happiness websites Strengths Test top five character strengths to reinforce positive traits and hope. http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires.aspx
    The A3 Strengths Board is displayed in the classroom.

  • Maggie Maslowski

    Thanks for sharing. That sounds amazing. Students LOVE to be heard.