Monday’s Muse: Icebreakers
Every Monday of the school term in 2014, Write Away With Me will post a writing and/or storytelling activity that you can try with your class or your children at home. This new segment will be called Monday’s Muse! It may come in especially handy this year, as Naplan now includes both persuasive and narrative writing options. There’s nothing like a tried and true Icebreaker to start your year and this is one of my favourites! I’ve used it with students from Year 2 to Year 10. If you know someone who would like to read this, please feel free to share. (Orange link button is on your left).
True True False
When I’m running a workshop, (especially in the holidays where the students come from all over Melbourne), I like to start with an Icebreaker or two. My criteria for an effective Icebreaker is one that’s fun, interactive and informative, for both the students and myself. A good Icebreaker really sets the scene for the day’s workshop. And so it is when your students come into your class on that first day of school. Nervous. Excited. Waiting to see how the day will unfold. True True False is a personal storytelling activity that ticks all the above boxes and provides opportunities for creative writing too. Don’t forget to join in the game yourself.
3 small pieces of paper per student ( Post It Notes work a treat for this! I’ve never met a child that didn’t like writing on a Post It Note!)
1 pencil or pen per child
Ask your students to write True at the top of two of their pieces of paper and False at the top of the third piece. (This can all be done on one page if you haven’t got time for organising smaller pieces of paper but I have found it works better with Post It Notes, especially if you plan on using the facts for further writing activities or class display).
Explain to your class that the task is to introduce yourself to the group by using two true details about yourself and one untrue or false detail about you or your life. The trick is to try to make all three statements sound equally believable. I set a timer for 5 mins to get the ball rolling. You can always add more time if you need to but a timer provides a deadline and can sometimes help eliminate the inevitable, ‘I don’t know what to write.”
Then students share their statements and class members have to pick the false answer. It’s fast paced, fun and you’ll learn lots of interesting information about your class, from what they like to eat to who has broken their arm or met a celebrity or two. If there’s time, I like to pair children at the end and see if they can quickly introduce each other to the class using one of the details that was shared. This really tests their listening skills. For example, “Meet Harry – he really loves dogs!” See if they can do this without having to show their Post Its Notes to their partner.
Smetimes I add another element to the activity by awarding raffle tickets for correct guesses and for being able to introduce your partner at the end by remembering one of their statements. This encourages children to listen carefully, share their Post It Notes and have turns at guessing and speaking to the group. I draw a ticket at the end which gives someone a chance to choose a reward. At The Writer’s Club, we have a small prize box, usually with novelty pencils and erasers. The raffle ticket system can create a fun, game type vibe, which works well to set the scene and to get the group talking and sharing their ideas. (I never write names on tickets as this slows down the process.)
Creative Writing Opportunities:
At a writing workshop, I might leave it there. By now, we’ll have learnt each other’s names and some intriguing facts about our new friends. By this stage, I usually have a good feel for group dynamics which is important if children are going to be paired up at the end or work in small groups during the day.
But in a classroom, you could take this one step further and use the Post It Notes as creative writing prompts. Here are three writing prompts for you to try:
- Take the False fact you wrote about yourself and expand on this. For example, one false fact I often use, is that I have flown over the Yarra Valley in a hot air balloon. I’ve never done this but if I were to write about it, I could describe the lift off, the view, the feelings, my fear of heights…
- Take one of the True facts and write a personal narrative. Tell the story in as much detail as possible.
- Take one of your True facts and turn it into a work of fiction. Add details that are false. Mix it up a bit. Exaggerate. This is one time when the truth should not get in the way of a good story! One of my facts might be that I can ride a unicycle. Now that’s true, but in my story, I could be a clown as a children’s party, where the birthday boy is rather naughty, to say the least! Get the picture?
Maybe you’ll choose which writing option you would like your class to use for their story or perhaps they’ll choose the one that resonates with them. They could even make a random selection from the three options.
So there you have it. An Icebreaker that could have your class thinking creatively, telling their stories and writing narratives all before the first bell sounds!
See you next Monday for a poetry activity that gives your class the chance to get to know each other a little better!
Good Luck. I hope this is your best year ever!