Attendance Questions

This activity is what I'd call an everyday icebreaker. I really dislike the drudgery of calling roll. Instead, I ask a question at the beginning of class that every one answers out loud in turn. While the questions could be about topics discussed in class, I prefer to make them completely off-topic... such as

Name your favorite animal

Name something that is black and white

Name something you'd see in the sky

Name a superhero (or super villain)

Name a favorite toy from childhood

Sometimes I've asked a topical question, such as "what happened to the cobra who escaped from the Bronx zoo?" (a news story that was all over facebook that day.) I got some extremely vivid and creative answers.

However, there is a rule: no student can repeat another student's answer. This means that, depending on the question, students have to start getting creative after about 8-9 answers.

Course Name: 
WRD 110
WRD 111
WRD 112
Assignment Type: 
Classroom Activity
Preparation Guidance and Instructor Advice: 

I did this activity intending to make attendance fun for the first few days, until I memorized everyone's faces. However, memorizing faces was harder for me than for other folks; plus, when I stopped the question of the day, the students where very disappointed. I realized that it was serving some other functions:

(1) It served as a moment of "brain-resetting" or relaxation. The first class I used attendance questions in was a drawing class, and often they had just come from organic chemistry or statistics.

(2) It allowed the students to get to know each other, and for me to get to know my students. In a recent class, when I asked "name something in the sky", several students answered with very specific makes and models of helicopters. It turns out I had a large handful of Air Force ROTC students!

(3) It taught them how to brainstorm. When the time comes for students to come up with ideas for their own projects, they realize that they have been being creative every day.

(4) It helped them to be comfortable speaking in class. Students in the classes I used this activity in were much more likely to speak up, ask questions in class, and give honest and helpful feedback on a classmate's work.

Attendance questions do take up some class time. It's fast the first few days, but as students get comfortable, they speak in class more. If you decide to do it throughout the semester, be willing to cede about 10 minutes from class some days.


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