Friday, January 3, 2020

30-Second Talk & Listen Name Activity

Are you good with names? If you are a secondary teacher with 100+ students in your classroom every day, learning names is no easy task. There are lots of tips and shortcuts out there to help with learning names, but today I'd like to share an interactive activity I opened our first CTE department meeting with back in August. With the new semester quickly approaching, this is a great way to start new classes. Or even if you're not starting the new year with new students, it's a great way to regroup after the winter break.

For this activity I used prompts developed by the My Name, My Identity Campaign together with the “30-Second Talk About” teaching strategy, developed by CTE Teacher and Instructional Coach, Sandra Adams, to engage participants in conversation about their names.

Here's how it goes. 
Participants will talk with a partner about the background and uniqueness of their names. This activity is different from other similar name icebreakers in that one partner will have the chance to speak for 30 seconds and during that time the other partner cannot utter a word. They should maintain eye contact and can nod or smile, but they cannot speak. Once time is up, the listener will share what they learned with the entire group. Once all listeners share out, the roles are reversed and we repeat the process. 

Before we began, I gave my staff the following directions:
1. Find a partner - ideally someone you don't know well.
2. Choose a "Talker" or "Listener" Role.
3. Talkers will share the "story behind their name*."  During this time, listeners cannot utter a word. They should listen actively, affirming the talker with nods and smiles, but no talking.
4. Once 30 seconds is up, the listener will paraphrase what he/she heard with the entire group.
5. Switch roles and repeat.

Roles and/or partners can be assigned, if appropriate.  Also, be sure to provide prompts or talking points. I gave the following talking points from the My Name, My Identity Campaign resources.
  • Is there a story behind your name?
  • Were you named after someone?
  • Where does your name originate?
  • What does your name mean?
  • What is something positive about your name that makes it easy to remember?

This simple, engaging strategy forces participants to actively listen to a partner and while 30 seconds may seem brief, listening intently even for that short time is not easy. Most of us jump in with a comment as soon as someone starts to speak. In her blog post, Ms. Adams described the exercise as a review activity, and while it can be used to foster any sort of academic conversation, using the name story prompts made for a wonderful icebreaker.

A couple of months ago, I modeled this strategy in a Business Law class to build background as students were starting a unit on Credit Laws. Students embraced the process and with an odd-numbered group, the teacher stepped in as well. It was very effective. 
Talking and listening are essential skills for everyone, but they are crucial for our digital natives who are connected virtually through social media but lacking the soft skills needed for the workplace and beyond. This activity will not take much time, but it can greatly impact learning and help students prepare for job interviews and other social interactions they will have in their post-secondary life. I encourage you to try it and if you do, drop me an email or a comment. I'd love to hear how it goes. 

Have a great year!

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