A Quick Way To Get To Know Your Kids

One quick way to find out what is inside of the kids in your class is a simple writing exercise. Ask each student to take out a blank piece of paper and number 1-20. Tell them to write 20 sentences that begin with the words "I wish." Because they are kids, you will get a lot of sentences like "I wish I did not have to do this assignment," or "I wish I had a million dollars." They will not be able to write 20 sentences that mean nothing. Somewhere in that batch of sentences you will find one or two that reveal the deepest private thoughts of the student. "I wish my dad would not drink so much," or "I wish people did not think I was so dumb." Collect the papers and use them as one key to unlock the heart of your class. When I use this assignment, I do it early in the first week. I explain to the class that it is important to understand that no matter what someone looks like or acts like, each of us has inside of us difficult problems and unusual gifts. I talk about how you cannot tell what a person is really like just because they seem happy or appear to be popular or a good student. Then, I tell them about the assignment, explaining that somewhere in the sentences the real person will slip out. I ask them to help me identify the "real" sentences, as compared with the "fake" sentences. I do not let them know who wrote the paper. One by one I read the sentences. They raise their hands when I hit a "real" one and we talk about the issue a bit. By the end of class, I know more about my individual students and the class has grown closer and more aware of the need for basic human kindness and understanding.

Steve Simpson is the editor of Ed.Net Briefs (http://www.edbriefs.com), a weekly online education newsletter with more than 60,000 readers. He earned his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Washington. He can be reached by e-mail at .


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