Heralding in a new year by exploring personal values

Community building is important to me so our first class meeting always does more than simply break the ice. I try to organize class activities that help us get to know each other, but as someone who likes us to work smarter not harder I try to handcraft that activity to also serve the work that we will do together – which this semester focuses on American Literacy.

One of my favorite go-to moves is the simple table tent. I often use it for professional development as well as teaching. Table tents are practical for displaying names, but they are also a great way to share other information that can be used for class discussion and writing. As I’ve noted before I adore heart maps and I have co-opted that idea to apply to table tents which are easier to display in a shared classroom than heart maps.

Heart maps can focus on a variety of personal traits, but it made sense to me for our table tents to focus on our personal creeds and values and the symbols that represent those creeds before we began investigating America’s creeds, values, and symbols. During our first class meeting we made table tents that were based on the colors and symbols of heraldry.

A creed is an idea or set of beliefs that guides the actions of a person or group

Merriam Webster dictionary

As indicated on the slide above, students were asked first to think about the colors that best matched their character and to choose a couple symbols that represented what is important to them. Verbally I encouraged them to choose symbols that served a double meaning (both via heraldry and their life). In response to this idea, some students looked up specific symbols that were important to them (such as sunflowers: symbolize adoration, loyalty and longevity). As you can see from the featured image above, I chose green because it symbolizes joy and hope, but also personally I associate green with growth. I also chose three symbols. The fish represents knowledge and is also associated with faith. The book represents learning and I am also an avid reader. The tree also represents hope, but I also consider trees a symbol of long-term impact and planning for the future.

After we crafted our table tents, we then introduced ourselves in small groups (that rotated so everyone was in my group and maximized student contact) using those colors and symbols. Other than underscoring yet again my pitiful artistic skills it worked very well and we will use our table tents for the next few weeks to help everyone (especially me) learn names. Some teachers choose to have every student present their heart map (or table tent) to the whole class. I prefer small group contact and I know many students do as well. I thought talking in small groups would be a lot easier for students than standing up in front of the whole class. This also gave me the ability to make eye contact with each student (in each small group in turn) to ask if they had questions or worries about the class.

I love that our heraldry-inspired table tents were a handcrafted icebreaker that served multiple purposes. Together we introduced our community, led directly into our work studying America’s values and symbols, and provided a foundation for our future rhetorical analysis unit when we return to this work with symbols. How can you handcraft icebreakers for your class that serve multiple purposes? Do you think it is important to handcraft your icebreakers?

Author: Deanna Mascle
#TeachingWriting and leading #NWP site @ Morehead State (KY): Passionate about #AuthenticWriting, #DeeperLearning, #PBL, #Ungrading, and #HyperDocs.

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