Friday, July 5, 2013

Google Earth as a Great Ice Breaker/Name Learner

When I was a young teacher, I was terrible at learning my students' names.  It actually took me weeks to learn their names.  Finally, after a couple of years, I realized that not only did I not know my students' names, some of them didn't know each other's names.  Something had to change.  I had to stop referring to my students by something other than their names!  I had to figure out some way to learn their names faster!
As killing at least two birds with one stone is one of my favorite strategies and sayings, we began playing games to get both the students and me learning everybody's names on the first day.  We have very effectively gotten on the same page very quickly ever since.  Check!
Now, I'm at CTY Santa Cruz and we have an intense three weeks together and I have no time to waste learning names and hitting the ground running.  We have an absolutely diverse group from all sorts of backgrounds and places in the world.  To take advantage of that great fact, we hit the ground running with Google Earth.
One of my favorite aspects to Google Earth is the fact that when we move from one location to another, we don't instantly "jump" there, we quickly travel the globe to get there.  So, we started with me.  I showed the students where North Fork is and where my house is and where my school is down the road in O'Neals.  Then, we saw where Vania, our TA is from in Lima, Peru.  I plugged in Lima and soon we were moving south and east until we had moved from the golden foothills of the California Sierra Nevada in O'Neals, CA to the metropolis of South America just down from the Andes in Lima!  So, that's cool, but what about the names?
From there we had each student tell us his/her name and where he/she lived and we were soon moving north, south, east, and west as we traveled to Asia to the Bay Area to Seattle to Arizona to Mexico, back to Asia, back to Mexico and back to the USA all over the globe!  Each student had to tell us his/her name, what grade they were entering, what their school was, and something fun or interesting about their town, school, or neighborhood.
Within twenty minutes, each student had introduced him/herself, had shown us his/her hometown, and told us something about him/herself with great visual assistance.  Without realizing it, they had all presented themselves to the class and had done it confidently and well!  Better than all of that, we all knew something fundamental about each other and had a context for everybody.  And we all knew everybody's names!  In the first 20 minutes!  Yippee!  No name game.  Can you tell I was fired up?  I was!
Thank you Google Earth!  We had broken the ice and learned each other's names!  I look like I can learn names quickly and I did it in an engaging manner.  Do you have an ice breaker/name learner that uses tech?  If so, what is it?  I'd love to hear it.

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