We often start the new school year trying to get acquainted with our students. There are the new incoming students you know nothing about except for a check mark indicating special education services on the registration records. If there is more than that, often the record hasn’t been updated for a year and isn’t that accurate. If you hit the jackpot, you might actually get the last progress report.
Then there are the parents who want to give their child a fresh start in a new school and see if anyone will notice prior difficulties if nothing is said. This is usually the child with behavior challenges among other things. Don’t worry! The teacher will seek you out within the first couple of days.
I love those parents that have kept all the paperwork in a file folder and can give you up to date and missing copies. In some cases, technology has improved things by linking records across schools but sometimes it still takes awhile before everything comes together. Meanwhile, you need to figure out student needs so you can get that schedule written.
Then there are your former students. There are your 1st graders working on sibilants who are sporting missing front teeth or new braces. That stubborn /r/ difficulty may have clicked in but you need to find that out because of course that child’s paperwork is due to be renewed the first couple of weeks of school. The best are those who were unintelligible a year or so ago and now speak clearly. The new teacher questions why they have speech on their records.
To start out the new year, I usually haul out one of my conversation ice breakers. It gets students talking and I get an idea of where to start. One of my favorites is a suction cup ball you can often find at Target, The Dollar Store or any party favors section. It would also be possible to use a dice or spinner with numbers. The questions can be written on a sheet of paper and numbered. I really like the suction ball. Everyone likes to throw a ball at a target and it is quite engaging even for reluctant students.
To prepare for this, I draw a target on a white board with an erasable marker making a few rings and target areas. I label the rings with numbers 1-6. I make a corresponding list of numbers and have the students brainstorm conversation starters.
For example at the beginning of the school year they may come up with questions such as:
1. Did you take a road trip during the summer? 2. Did you learn anything fun? 3. Did you get anything new? 4. Did you eat any fun foods? 5. Did you see any movies? 6. Did you read any books?
The students take turns throwing the ball at the target and then answering the questions according to the number area hit. The other students are then required to ask a follow up question according to the answer and topic.
I like this activity because students of any age and ability can do it. I have plenty of opportunities to observe their speech and language skills. I can observe students in a mixed group and see how they interact. I can use this activity to see how a student answers questions, stays on topic, and contributes to a topic that has already been started. It goes fairly quickly because turns do not take long.
I hope you find this post useful and have a good beginning to your school year.