I simply must go – Baby, it’s cold outside
The answer is no – Ooh baby, it’s cold outside
This welcome has been – I’m lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm — Look out the window at that storm
I’m not writing about music, Ella Fitgerald, or the weather, although it is actually feels like November in Boston right now. I’m writing about warm-up exercises, which, understandably brought these lyrics to mind.
I have attended sessions at ASTD and other conferences on warm-up exercises. And I have taken classes that started with warm-up exercises. I remember one, offered by IBM/Lotus, where we had placards on our tables and had to write our name on one side and the place we most want to travel to on the other. Then, when we went around the room, we had to introduce ourselves with the location and the reason we want to go there. The exercise did not generate deep bonding.
Based on my less-than-positive experiences with warm-up exercises, I struggled to find ones that worked in my own teaching, realizing that classes are generally more successful when students feel connected. Online it can be harder to build camaraderie. I had techniques, such as parties in virtual worlds, that worked once a class was in session and people knew each other. (It was surprising how closely these parties replicated real life get-togethers.) I asked my students to complete profiles prior to the start of class so that we could all get to know each other a little. But my first sessions rarely had anything more frivolous than going through my roster for quick introductions.
Hence I was delighted to read Felicity O’Dell’s comment:
A simple task like asking each student to describe what they can see from their window or around them as they sit at their computer working on the course is an easy and unthreatening thing to do and can build confidence in people who may be unused to posting to a group. It also helps everyone get a sense of the other students as real people and so seems to make the collaborative learning experience of the course richer and more engaging.
My students were often scattered throughout the world and I wished I had tried this with them, especially given the different locations, time zones, and weather. Curt Bonk made a comment that he likes “using YouTube videos to start or end discussion in class.” I can easily imagine that a well-chosen video (probably not a turntable) could provide a catalyst for a great discussion in the beginning of a class when people don’t know each other yet.
Do you have warm-up exercises that have been successful? Or ones to avoid?