Summer is one of my favorite times of year because I can catch up on all of my professional reading. I have a stack of books by my bed that gets taller and taller throughout the year. I spend my reading time during the school year on books that I can recommend to my students. Summer is my time to dig deep into professional books to learn and grow.
One of the books that I'm reading this summer is called "The Curious Classroom" by Smokey Daniels. It is all about student-centered inquiry teaching. I felt like a lot of my teaching in the previous year was very teacher-driven. My goal for next year is to move away from so much teacher-directed activity to more student-driven learning. This book was filled with a bunch of great ideas and suggestions to get you started on inquiry teaching.
Something Daniels discusses in this book is the importance of building a strong classroom community by getting to know each other. He mentions teachers sharing personal information about themselves with students. Can students tell anything about you as a person? My students know all about my kids, my dog Chance (who can snarf down 4 blueberry muffins from the kitchen counter in the blink of an eye), my car named Dora, and my love for Walt Disney World. I make a video each year with pictures to tell the kids all about myself that I show on the first day of school.
(Here's my video from last year. It's a tradition and part of my summer homework. My son is already asking when I'll make my video for this year.)
It's not really practical though for kids to make a video about themselves to share. Enter "Personal Identity Maps" as described by Smokey Daniels in his book. For this activity, students make a concept web all about themselves to share. I decided to make one for myself. I like to have a sample ready to show kids for some assignments (but not for all - sometimes it can really stifle creativity), so I decided to make one for myself. Here's my identity map. I'll use this to show the kids as my sample so they understand my expectations for the finished product.
I made a little set of instructions for the kids to use. Click here to access the PDF file with instructions for students and possible categories of information that students might want to include.
When the students have finished making their web, they can share with a partner and use that as a basis to create a venn diagram to observe similarities and differences. The book suggests putting them up around the room and having students do a gallery walk and jot on post-its about things they noticed or were surprised about after looking at the webs. This sounds like a great way to launch into the year and building a great classroom community.