It’s that time of year again! The air is turning ever so slightly crisp in the morning, leaves are slowly drifting off their perches in the trees, and little ones are anticipating their first day of school, some for the very first time and others for yet another
year. With all the changes September brings, there is one that is always filled with anticipation—meeting your classroom teacher. Or, if you’re the teacher, meeting your students for the first time.
Years ago when I was a student teacher and welcoming my first classroom of fifth graders, I lost sleep wondering how I would get to know all 29 of my students (and quickly). And how would they get to know me, their fearless leader for the forthcoming 180 days?
On one of those sleepless nights I came up with a quick and easy ice-breaker and multi-faceted lesson simply called, “Ask Mrs. Hunter a Question.” With this lesson I was able to assess my students’ writing skills for sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, penmanship, and creativity. They in turn learned a snippet of information about me.
As I lead my students into their classroom on that first day one of the first things they noticed was the poster outside our door that said, “Ask Mrs. Hunter a Question.” As soon as we settled into our morning routine I explained the poster. The guidelines were straightforward:
- Write your question in a complete sentence.
- Use correct punctuation and grammar.
- Check your spelling.
- Write your name in the top right corner.
The poster included a pocket with half sheets of paper for students to use. There was also a very large envelope for them to put their completed questions inside.
Each day for the first week of school I would take time to read and answer their questions out loud. This was a great transition activity after coming in from lunch recess or if we had a few minutes between classroom cleanup and the last bell of the day. The students loved learning the fun facts about their teacher—my favorite color, how many pets I have, my husband’s name, my birthdate (I was always 80 years old!). I in turn also got to know my students—the depth of their questioning skills, their writing skills, and how well they followed directions. It is interesting to see how many versions of “upper right corner” there are! This lesson also allowed us to start our community of learning with each other in a fun and engaging way that set the tone for the rest of the year.
To make your own poster, the supply list is short. You most likely will have the items in your classroom.
- A large piece of construction paper or other colorful paper the size of a poster—approximately 24” x 36”.
- 3–6 pieces of 8” x 11” colored paper.
- 1 manila envelope (optional)
- Markers or crayons
- Notebook paper cut in half
Take three of the colored pieces of paper and cut the edges to give them a more exciting or unique shape. Next arrange the shapes on the large poster-sized paper. Using colorful markers or crayons write these words on the shapes, separated as noted: “Ask/Mrs. Hunter/A Question.” (Of course, substitute your name for mine.)
Next, take the manila envelope and label it “Questions.” If you want, you can use two pieces of paper to make an “envelope” by using one as the base and then folding another sheet diagonally to make the envelope’s flap.
With one last piece of paper, make a pocket to hold half sheets of notebook paper. I suggest using a few different colors on the poster as a whole to make it stand out and look inviting.
Students will be excited to write their questions because they really do want to know all about their teacher. Each day we looked forward to learning something new together. I saved their questions in their portfolios as an initial assessment piece. Weeks later I could see the progress each student had made. And each week throughout the school year we continued to grow as a community of learners because the seed had been planted with this initial lesson.
Kathleen A. Hunter, MS is a literacy tutor and aspiring children's book author. You can visit her online at www.KathleenHunterWrites.com.
© 2013 Kathleen A. Hunter. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. Making Chapter Charts: Useful for Outlining—and for Decorating Your Classroom Back to School Books