Doing the virtual teaching thing this fall? Take your “About Me” survey to the next level with a full-color collection of “Get to Know Me” Google Slides!
I’ll be honest: I love opening the school year with an “about me” survey. Ever since I started teaching, this activity has been a staple of my classroom. And while I try to mix it up each year with a slightly different twist (sometimes it’s one in a series of to-do-items scattered in a station for a team-vs-team syllabus challenge, other years it’s an individual take-home reflection activity) — there is no question that the sooner teachers can get to know each of their students, the smoother our class year together will run.
“About Me” surveys are perfect for this sort of thing. And I geek out about learning all there is to know about each of the new students in my class each year.
Not only do these surveys allow me a sort of “cheat sheet” into student interests, hobbies, and personalities — but it also serves as a powerful way to take the temperature of the classroom so I can let students know that their voices will be heard in our shared space together throughout the year. There’s an old saying in education that the person who does the reflection on the work is the person who does the learning, and I think that surveys are a great way to model the fact that “hey! Your voice matters here. And I’m here to listen” while creating an intentional space for some introspection and metacognitive thought for all parties involved. So yeah, I use surveys pretty regularly — typically once at the end of each unit — to keep tabs on what all we’re doing well and what else we could do to step up our game.
In a distance learning environment, it can be a real challenge to replicate this same sense of in-person camaraderie and interpersonal support. Though surveys remain an essential part of my teacher toolkit, it’s no secret that reading endless rows in a spreadsheet can lead to a highly impersonal experience where individual students are simply reduced to forgettable new lines of text in a massive document alongside countless others. And information overload? Well that’s a big problem… especially when so many teachers won’t have the advantage of seeing their students face-to-face nearly as often to help us put a face to each name.
So this year more than ever, I want to start the year off with some “HEY! THIS CLASS FEELS DIFFERENT!” momentum and walk away from those first days of school with a more 3D understanding of all the learners in my classroom. Call it a nod to visual learning or a simple bit of cabin fever from too many months spent staring at Zoom calls and spreadsheets — but I want my class to feel HUMAN, darn it! That’s why I whipped up this collection of getting to know you Google Slides activities, and I warmly encourage you to adapt them for your classroom in any way that you’d like.
Using this template is as easy as 1-2-3:
- Click here to save a local copy of the template. Once your download is complete, feel free to swap out all the stuff about me and drop in unique content of your own. That way, your default templates will offer your students an inside look at who you are!
- Rinse and repeat step one by using your school’s LMS or email to share a copy of the same template with your own students. When you share the file, ask your students to fill in their own unique interests for as many of the default templates as you’d like (e.g.: “Hey all! I’ve shared a slide deck with 7 different activities. Pick any THREE of those templates and use it to fill out your favorites! You can delete the other slides.”)! And…
- Collect student submissions in place of (or in addition to) your usual first week “about me” survey. As students submit their work, you can put all these items on display on your class’s LMS or your weekly e-newsletter to let everyone learn a little bit more about themselves and one another to kickstart your school year together. You can also consider asking students to comment on their classmate’s submissions (e.g.: “browse the collection and use our online discussion forum to reflect on the work of any two of your classmates”) to encourage some friendly peer-to-peer conversation in these all-important first days of class.
Have fun with these and please keep me posted! Would love to hear how this works out for you. And if you’re a teacher who’s looking to offer a follow-up lesson in digital literacy and source citation — this activity makes a great one two punch. Simply start by having students submit their original templates along with a short explanation (blog post, Flipgrid, etc.) where they explain each of the choices they’ve included in their submission. Once all student work has been collected, offer a quick mini lesson on how including proper citations (e.g. hyperlinks!) can help act as time-saving explanations — and then give your students the chance to double back through their submitted work products to make sure that they’ve provided relevant hyperlinks to all the places where they found their information. Just like that, and PRESTO — you’ve modeled the importance of citing your sources with your opening week activity, and you’ll have a low-stress frame of reference the class can refer back to again and again throughout the year each time you have to talk about plagiarism and the importance of proper source attribution.
Engaging first week activity + teachable moment without tears = win / win.
There’s no reason our 2D classrooms need to limit our human interactions. Nor should the fact that we’re trapped behind our flat computer screens mean that we should have to lose the three-dimensional aspects of what makes each of the learners in your classroom so unique. So feel free to put your personal twist on this slide deck and play with these resources in any way that you’d like!
(If you’d rather have students design their own Hydro Flask, we’ve got a template for that too!)