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At the CCCC Winter Workshop, Toby Fulwiler presented and we participated
in probably the best "icebreaker" I've ever done.  I immediately came
back to my campus for the spring semester and tried it.  It works.
 
Here goes:
   1.  Find  a stranger in the room - someone you have not previously met.
   2.  Write a letter to this person and discuss what you think a class
called "         " is going to involve.
       You have 5 minutes.
   3.  Add a P. S.  where you tell your partner something about your
personal life that you don't mind sharing.
       You have 2 minutes.
 
  Then, give them 2 minutes to exchange letters and read.  No talking.
 
  4.  Now, write another letter to your partner where you discuss one of
your major concerns about "        "  or taking a "      "  class.
      You  have 5 minutes.
 
  5.  P. S.  respond to your partner's P. S. from the first letter.
      You have 2 minutes.
 
 Then, give them 2 minutes to exchange letters and read.  No talking.
 
  6.  Write a letter where you try to solve your partner's concern about
"         "  or "        "  class.
     You have 5 minutes.
  7.  You may add a P. S. if you like.
      You have 2 minutes.
 
8.  Pair your group with another group and develop one major concern to
share with the class.
     You have 5 minutes.  You may now talk.
 
 
The key to this icebreaker is no talking throughout the session until
they reach #8.  We found that it kept us focused.  We, as writing
teachers, had an opportunity to talk about audience by shifting from the
first letter which was more formal to the P. S. and then to each of the
subsequent letters.
You have to remain diligent to the time, and you may find yourself
writing with a student if you do not have an even number of people in
class.
Later in the semester this same activity can be used to check progress,
to give you a quick sense of who's understanding what, and to allow
students to explain a difficult concept to each other; then, you can
collect the group concerns and use that to supplement your lecture or to
create a review for a test.
I used the prompts and time sentences on an overhead so that I would not
talk either.
If you have questions, I'll be glad to offer more information.
 
Susan McKinney
Westark Community College
Fort Smith, AR
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