Everybody Has Secrets
On the first day of class, when you have introduced yourself and explained the guidelines for your classroom and you think that all of your students have arrived, hand out four or five small pieces of paper to each student. Ask them to write a different aspect of their lives on each piece of paper (e.g. "I have a dog named 'Biffie'.") You should walk about correcting mistakes at random until they are all finished and have deposited their papers into a hat, folded every which way, it doesn't matter how. Then each student draws the same number of papers as he or she put in, taking care not to draw their own. Upon completion of the draw, each student is required to find the writer of the papers in their possession. However, there is a catch. The students should do this in a polite fashion, starting with introductions, small talk and thus working around to learning the information they are seeking. Shouting out "Who has a dog named 'Biffie'?" does not fly.
By the end of this exercise, the class members should have met just about everybody. You can participate, too, but students may tend to avoid you as this is their first day and they are a bit wary as of yet. That's up to you.
Finally, in the ten minutes at the end of class, you should, one by one, call out each student's name and then hear from the four or five different people who chose their secrets.
This is a dynamite exercise, lots of fun and low pressure, and it will make everyone so much more comfortable with each other. And I thought it up all by my lonesome--though I'm sure it isn't original with me.
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