Rationale: A good way of starting a workshop is to "break the ice" by having participants introduce themselves and get to know each other. TAs who know one another's names and feel comfortable together are more likely to use each other as resources throughout the year. This is especially helpful for beginning TAs. It also models a technique that TAs might use themselves in the first set of tutorials or labs.
Method: Participants, in pairs, take turns sharing several bits of information about themselves -- their background, a personal interest/hobby, teaching experience or future teaching plans. (Allow 2 minutes for each person, with changeover signaled by the facilitator.) If there is an odd number in the group, the facilitator acts as one member of a pair.
Each participant then introduces his/her partner (1 minute per person) to the group.
When everyone has spoken the facilitator explains the benefits of the exercise and points out that it emphasizes the importance of active listening as well as telling.
- Interview. The group can brainstorm a list of basic questions they would like to ask each other. These are recorded in a visible place (blackboard, flipchart or overhead). In pairs, one person answers the questions for a set period of time while the other listens, then the roles are reversed. Introductions to the large group follow.
- Sentence completion. This exercise can be used with quite a large number of participants. Also, it is an activity appropriate for use as a session starter with a group that already knows one another.
The facilitator suggests some sentences for participants to complete, such as:
Right now I feel..
I wonder if the other people here...
I wonder if the facilitator will..
The thing I hope for most in coming here is...
Completion of sentences are written down by each participant, after which they are shared in pairs. A volunteer then collects the completed sentences. One or several sample sentences of each can be read aloud to the whole group. This information can be used as a first step in planning or revising the agenda.
- Line-up. This is a slightly more complex (and fun) alternative if the numbers are not too large (say, more than 20). Participants form two lines, preferably sitting on chairs placed facing each other (if chairs are too hard to move, participants can stand). Each participant exchanges information (see above) with the person facing them. After two minutes the facilitator signals (with whistle, bell, shout) for one of the lines to move one person to their right; the person at the extreme right moves to the opposite end of the line. The process is repeated until every participant has talked to everyone in the line (or as many people as time permits).
- To ease introductions, name tags should be used if possible. Also, encourage TAs to use name tags with their seminars/tutorial groups.
- Group photographs can be very helpful for TAs who want to get to know each other. Take a photo of everyone in attendance and make enough copies of the developed photo to distribute to all TAs at a later date (be sure each person's name is clearly identified).
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Last updated June 24, 1997
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