I thought I'd start my first blog with a version of an activity that I've used lots of times when meeting a new class: introducing myself through a series of metaphors. It seemed particularly appropriate given the virtual nature of our meeting - I do love a double meaning!
I love this task because firstly, it puts a livelier spin on the 'getting to know you' questions we always ask; secondly, it shows my new pupils what to expect from me - I like quirky, imaginative tasks that make you think - and thirdly, it is easy to differentiate on the spot - important for a class whose needs you are unfamiliar with. However, most importantly, I love this task because it can prove deeply insightful: I learn such a lot about each child that is not present in a list of data. I especially cherish that wonderful moment when someone unexpected, whose writing levels may not be outstanding, reveals an incredible imagination that is often overshadowed by the technicalities of long tasks.
So, how does it work? I usually generate a series of categories, chosen so that there is a big range of subjects within each one. Good examples would be: colours, seasons, animals, sweets, books or book characters, fruit and vegetables, forms of transport, music, sports, types of weather...really the list is endless.
I then reveal some of my choices and explain why; it is in the explanation that the depth of thinking is made clear. Children often start by making simple links - I am a racing car because I run fast - and this is fine, but it is always worth encouraging them to think more deeply about the aspects of the object - I am a racing car because I love to work alone and finish first. From there, you can demonstrate how to express the idea in a more poetic fashion to avoid endless uses of 'because' - I am a racing car, revelling in my own company and racing to finish first.
I try to model different levels of depth within my own answers and also ask the children if they can predict what I am like from some of the objects I have chosen, before I give the explanation - I love it when someone suggests something I hadn't thought of and it's a wonderful message to a class that their ideas are valued and often even better than mine.
So, who am I? Let me metaphorically introduce myself...
A sun-dappled tree, drawing its strength from its family roots,
Popping candy, fizzing with excitement over the richness of words,
The tranquil silence of freshly lain snow, absorbing the thoughts of those who wish to talk,
Jane Eyre, quiet observer, passionate believer,
A steam train, patiently, determinedly seeking its destination, helping others to do the same,
A mole, myopic lover of the dark,
Errol the owl, clumsy, loyal fan of the Weasleys,
An audio book, believing that books can speak to us all.
A labyrinth, constantly curious, often amazed!