Engaging students while meeting through Zoom can be difficult. the teacher-student separation is widened by the teleconferencing chasm/. It is up to the teacher to create an environment that supports their students' interest in learning.
I have found that the key to connecting with students is to engage them in discussion at the beginning of class. At first, I would ask them "How are you?" or "What is exciting you this week?" This was useful for the first few weeks, but I realized that this was a prime opportunity to build community.
The tough part was developing new questions. My well of creativity quickly ran dry so I Googled "icebreaker questions" and found a fountain of phrases. I didn't want to ask questions that were too personal but still interesting. This could be the perfect opportunity to begin class with some Bell Ringers. Asking a question relevant to what we would be discussing would be an effective way to get things started.
These are the questions I have used throughout this semester. They are in chronological order. Most of them came from Amber at Learn Grow Blossom.
- If you were to write a book, What would be the topic?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- What class do you wish we offered at UNI? Why?
- How do you help others?
- Where would you like to travel?
- What is one thing you could do all day long without stopping?
- What do you think is your hidden talent?
- What is your favorite type of music?
- What is the hardest part about being a kid?
- Who inspires you?
- What are 3 things you cannot live without?
- What Bugs You?
- When are you MOST creative?
- What would YOU ask a teacher?
- What do you like to do outside?
- If you could travel back in time 3 years and visit your younger self, What advice would you give yourself?
- Which country would you like your class to collaborate with? What would you like them to do? (preceded a discussion on Global Collaboration)
- Have you ever used QR codes? How could you use QR codes with your students? (set the stage for our QR Codes lesson.)
- If you could select a nickname, what would it be?
- What is your favorite card, board, or computer game?
Do Opening Questions Make a Difference?
While I don't have any survey data yet, I have felt a closer connection with my students this semester than in the past. Review the questions that I have asked. These are questions that unveil interesting information about each student but they don't pry into personal secrets. My students have told me that they feel a personal connection with me. Mind you, I have never met most of these students in person but we have a connection. Some of them say that they feel closer to me than any of their other professors.
Yes, they DO make a difference!
How are you opening your classes? What has been your students' reactions to your opening activities?
Share your ideas in the Comment section below.
NOTE: I completed some research where I asked my students about their reaction to this Opening Question Activity. It will be shared in a future posting and ultimately in an educational research journal.