The first week of school is typically an easy week to prep for. Syllabus? Check. Homework Agreement? Check. Classroom Procedures? Check. About Me activity that students have completed varieties of in every other class? Unfortunately, check.
The “About Me” has become a staple in the back-to-school repertoire. There are different variations and countless questions but the concept is always the same: tell the teacher about yourself. And so students spend the first day going from classroom to classroom answering questions such as “What are your hobbies?” “What is your favorite animal?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Because nothing tells someone about who you are more than filling-in-the-blank to a list of generic questions.
Last year, I decided to switch up my back-to-school lesson. And so, as any teacher who has committed herself to lesson planning – I began procrastinating. My procrastination of choice? Buzzfeed Quizzes. It was while I was putting (probably way too much) thought into questions such as “what is the first word you say when you answer the phone?” that I realized what
middle school students all people like learning about: themselves! After all, nothing is more exciting than answering soulful questions, tallying points and getting a streamlined blurb explaining who you are.
I decided to use this as inspiration for my new back-to-school activity. I thought about what my students could learn about themselves that would actually benefit them in the classroom – What kind of communicator are they? What role do they take on in groups? What learning style is best for them? – and then researched different surveys, quizzes and inventories that offered insights into these questions. I mix and matched questions until I had three surveys that I felt strongly about.
Next, I wanted to make sure that these results were actually used, and not just used as scratch paper for students practicing their bubble letters. I created a “Learning Profile” cover sheet where students could write responses after each quiz explaining how the result would impact them. Adding this component would force students to really look at their results. To make sure this didn’t get lost in the abyss that is the middle school binder, I had each student hole punch it and insert it as the front page to the Language Arts binder.
The last step was one just for me. I created a spreadsheet with each student’s name, and as they finished I plugged in their results. This became my go-to for group projects. Sometimes I made groups with all of the same type of learners, explaining to the group: “You all like to learn using nature, so maybe your project can have a natural component.” Other times, I made the groups a variety: “Each group member communicates differently so you will need to be conscious of how you are getting your ideas across.” Using Excel made it easy to sort the list using the different results.
Overall, this idea worked wonderfully. The students loved taking the quizzes (though as one would expect, writing their responses produced slightly less enthusiasm…). Many of the quizzes took some time, though, so in order to ensure students answered thoughtfully we only did one quiz a day. We would start it in class, and then a few of the students who didn’t finish would complete the quiz and writing response at home.
If you are interested in purchasing the entire Learning Profile packet I created, check out the product listing in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Otherwise – try your own spin on this idea by searching for quizzes or learning style inventories. Trust me, the students will appreciate having fresh activity to complete when they come to your class.
Edit: I just got done using this again for this school year, and I tried something new. After my students took the Communicaton Quiz, I divided them into groups based on their outcomes (I made the groups comprised of the same types of communicators, instead of mixing the students). Then, I used the classic team-building activity where they pretend they are on a plane that crashed on a deserted island and need to list the top 12 necessary items. After giving them a few minutes we debriefed, and it was truly eye-opening to see how each group approached the problem differently. The kids loved being able to see their Communication Style in action right away! Try the links below for different Plane Crash Scenario activities!