Friday, July 24, 2015

How to Know Every Student's Personality on the First Day of School

Frankly, I don't like the first day of school. I feel equal parts of boring, and like I'm giving a sales pitch. My first two years or so I tried get-to-know-you activities, but I've always dreaded them when asked to do them myself. I know, I know, even if at first they seem awkward, they usually help the atmosphere and "break the ice." I know that, but I just don't like them. None of them seemed "sophisticated" enough for high school. Then I started thinking about a workshop I attended back in college, and out popped an idea that I don't hate, and I think students will enjoy.

Who are people most interested in? Themselves. This activity gets people to think about themselves in a new way, and later, get to know and bond with others. I was attending a workshop at my college in the summer for student orientation leaders. This animated facilitator walks in the room and hands us four sheets of colored handouts: blue, gold, green, and orange. He hands us circle stickers of the same colors, and an index card. He explained that each of the colors are four basic personality types (each explained on its corresponding color), and although each of us have elements of all of the colors, we would really identify with one in particular. We were to then take the stickers, and order our colors from most like us, to least like us, on the card. After we all did this he broke us up into our four color groups, and had us brainstorm with the others the BEST part about being our color, and the WORST part, or what people didn't understand about us. After we brainstormed for a while, each group shared out to the whole, and he added in a ton of relevant information, ranging from why Golds and Oranges clash in group work, to what the best kind of date for a Blue would be. It was a fascinating exercise that let us know ourselves better, and why we get along or struggle with other people. I started thinking, how could I bring this into the classroom? First, a snapshot of what the different colors mean:

Knowing which color YOU are as a teacher is important first. It will help you understand why you relate better to certain students, and why others tend to grate on your nerves. In full disclosure, I did have a question about the colors on a student questionnaire one year, but did not try the actual activity I'm doing this year. I found out that one period was 90% Blue, and one period was about 40% Orange (guess which class drove me crazy). For all who are wondering, I am a Blue. Not surprisingly, a lot of teachers tend to be Blue. So, my suggestion on the first day is to try the activity, and skip just going over the syllabus. Students will immediately have connections to other people in their color, and learn a lot more about themselves. (You can probably also tell immediately who will do every homework assignment, and who will do it when they feel like it! That's a joke, but really, you probably could ;). 


  1. I actually use this (True Colors) with my college freshman seminar I teach. It's great for career discussions, as well as learning how to interact with others. I have done the similar activity, and then also given them a task to do in their corresponding color groups. They are given a Jenga (block set) and asked to build the tallest tower possible in a given time limit. It's a simple task, but it's interesting to see how each group approaches it, usually quite differently. After I ask them to debrief and answer a few questions about their process. It's a great conversation starter about heterogenous groups and why it's helpful to have a mix of colors in groups because of their different strengths.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I like the Jenga idea, maybe I'll try a similar activity :)

  3. Hi Cara! Just found you through a TpT forum post. :)

    This is an awesome idea! Everyone benefits from a little more self-awareness. I would definitely be nervous if I saw a huge group of oranges at the beginning of the year, though!

    There's a forum post asking secondary teachers to share their ideas for getting to know their students. I'll send you an email with a link to the post. You should definitely share this!

  4. Michelle, thank you so much for your comment! Definitely send me an e-mail, I would love to share it: