Although some teachers and students are still enjoying their summer vacations in other parts of the country, today was the second day of school in my neck of the woods! And it is running smoothly thanks to an adaptation of Ben Slavic’s Circling with Balls routine.
The original Circling with Balls has well, actual balls. The teacher takes a basketball, asks who plays basketball, and students hear all about how Susie plays basketball with her friends, but Johnny plays baseball with his brother. You introduce the structure “he/she plays” and circle it to death. I have done this with likes/dislikes for years, but only ever with beginners.
Now, I have the same routine for all my classes, regardless of level. Students get a sheet of cardstock and on one side, they write their name. On the other side, they draw a picture. My 8th graders have to draw something they are afraid of. Then, I weave a story using a willing volunteer’s picture. On the first day of school, we spent almost 30 minutes talking about evil clowns. We were having such fun, I ran out of time to give them a supply list.
This activity (which I still call Circling with Balls though it needs a different name) serves three purposes. First, it sets the tone for the class, and helps to establish classroom norms. Second, it is a diagnostic activity in which I can what vocabulary and grammar my students have acquired and where gaps in their knowledge is. Finally, it helps me learn their names and their personalities faster, adding to the sense of community that I want to cultivate.
There is very little planning that goes into Circling with Balls, because the students ARE the curriculum.