It had been years since I saw my college roommate! I pulled into her driveway and there she was waiting for me. She had pulled a lawn chair onto the blacktop just watching the road. It reminded me of myself as a little girl waiting for my grandparents to come over for my birthday. We both hurried to hug and squeeze and we couldn’t stop talking. My high school daughter was with me and slowly walked around the mini-van and shut my door. It was so good to see her. All those years melted away and didn’t matter. We picked right up where we left off. Our whole time together was filled with talk; we had so much to catch up on and discuss. This experience reminded me about the entrance to my classroom after a long break and how could I create, foster, or embrace this same experience for a classroom community. Everyone should feel such joy to see others.
When I began teaching, one of my mentors shared with me an activity to help students get to know each other. It’s a Find Someone Who (people scavenger hunt)…read a book, went to the zoo, played outside, ate cookies, or saw their grandma. It gives new friends an invitation for talk. They can’t use themselves and they can’t repeat a friend. It’s hard to meet new friends and I love how this provides some direction and language to foster talk. The students have really enjoyed this activity over the years and I soon created other versions for after long breaks from each other.
After many years, I added to a previous version with more talk support. I added a question to help foster more conversation; find someone who read a book followed with what book did you read? It changed the pace of this activity. They lingered more. They shared more information with each other and sometimes extended their talk beyond the prompt. They were focused on finding out a bit more information and not just “fill” a spot with a name. It felt natural. It reminded me about those first few moments in the driveway. Reconnecting with my college roommate felt good. It was easy and comfortable. How can we expect students to jump right back to learning if they don’t reconnect socially and share what they’ve been doing? Talk fosters a community and a community can make things easy and comfortable.