Do you need quick “get to know you” ideas to implement into your professional development sessions for teachers?
It might seem silly to play a game or plan an activity for staff to mingle and chat prior to diving into learning. But in order for teachers to get the most out of a professional development session, they need to engage with one another authentically in order to form connections. These connections allow teachers to find commonalities among one another. When people feel connected to one another, they feel safe. Connections based on commonalities turn into collaboration and that brings new learning to life.
Connecting and collaborating with peers while learning increases the likelihood that new learning will be implemented. During professional development sessions, the “get to know you” activities help teachers find encouragement and camaraderie among each other prior to learning. These relationships will create a foundation to lean on as peers tackle learning obstacles together.
Therefore, it is imperative that every teacher leader designing professional development sessions, builds in a few minutes prior to the learning session to get teachers warmed up to working together. Below are 5 simple to implement “get to know you” activities:
Break the ice with a simple written exercise. Put a prompt up on the projector and have teachers respond on an index card. (The prompt can but doesn’t need to be education related.) Then collect the index cards and utilize them as a way to 1) call on teachers at random 2) put teachers into groups or 3) complete a Q/A during the professional development session. A teacher’s response for the written assignment will provide numerous avenues for connections to form throughout the training.
Teachers talk for a living. Use their skillset to your advantage by creating a connection activity that requires teachers to talk. For example, you might have them turn and talk to a neighbor based on a prompt you have given. Or you might use a call-and-response where teachers can share their opinion or preference by voting with their voice. Either way, teachers are able to use their voice to connect with their peers.
Giving teachers items to manipulate takes away the pressure of staring at one another as they introduce themselves. Perhaps they put together a puzzle, fix a broken toy, or design a roller coaster. These activities are hands-on and require teachers to communicate. Without knowing it, they are sharing their expertise while problem solving based on their prior knowledge. There is a lot to be gained by a kinesthetic approach to collaboration.
A fun way to mix up the “get to know you” process in a professional development session is to tell teachers they have to find someone with whom they share a commonality based on a prompt provided. Teachers are to record the audio of their voice responding to the prompt in a free app, such as Voxer, and then find peers with similar responses. Again, the pressure is taken off of the teachers to stand in front of a group to introduce themselves, rather they pre-record an answer which allows them think time to craft a solid response. They then are off to play in a creative way by meeting folks via audio sharing. It is a unique sharing opportunity through communicating in a new way.
Just like students need time to talk and move, so do adult learners. Start off a learning session strong by incorporating moments of movement. This activity is based upon a popular game among kids called “Four Corners.” Just call out a topic and label four corners of the room with potential responses. Teachers vote for the one they identify with the most by moving to that corner. This helps visual learners see what the most and least voted areas were and allows for a meaty discussion to follow to uncover why. Once organized in corner groups, teachers are able to meet like-minded peers while also getting out some jitters through movement.
Each of these five activities require relationship building prior to learning. Learners need to feel important and safe before they can be open to learning. In all things we as educators do, we must remember “relationships matter.”
Note- All of these “get to know you” activities can and should be used in classrooms as well. Modeling teaching strategies during professional development sessions is the strongest way to ensure and encourage teachers to take what they are learning and implement it into their daily practice with students.
What is your favorite “Get to know you” activity to use during a professional development session?