The beginning of the year is so important for socializing. It can be a scary time for students who are anxious about talking to new people. It can be a scary time for teachers as they begin to observe heavy-hitting five-year-olds with clear plans to become queen of the classroom through a targeted reign of terror. It is important to build in activities that will not only facilitate group and partner play or conversation, but that will also promote the individuality of each child, so that others will have a desire to get to known them further. If children aren’t given those structured activities, there will inevitably be a few little ones who just cannot seem to break into the larger social scene of the classroom. That leaves you, the teacher, feeling like the administrator of Bumble BFF on the playground, the friend-date coordinator for kindergarteners hoping that you can get those little loners and social butterflies to swipe left and head to the sandbox together.
A great way to allow students to share a little bit about themselves is through a structured show-and-tell box. The show-and-tell box gives one student the opportunity to shine, while all other kiddos can focus on him or her without being distracted by other sharers. Instead of a traditional show-and-tell, where students can bring in anything they like to show off, I prefer to have a theme for the box, which sets parameters for what the child should share. This eliminates the possibility of twenty-four children each throwing an iPad into the box and bringing it into the classroom for a day. Ugh. My nightmare.
HOW TO SHARE
The share box is simple. All you need is a large Tupperware box with a handle on top of the lid for easy, child-friendly, one-handed carrying. I like this one that I snagged off of Amazon. For each theme, you will need to place a letter home in the box explaining the rules. These rules should also be included in any newsletters or email blasts home.
Rotate through all your kiddos until everyone has participated in a given theme, and then switch it up.
Each child gets a day to share. I find that modeling a routine for sharing is most effective, particularly in the younger grades.
- Sharer is introduced.
- Sharer waits for audience to give their full attention.
- Sharer shares. Students should be taught to pause for any interruptions so that they are not being forced to talk over anyone.
- Once finished, sharer says, “I am ready for comments or questions.”
- Audience members can raise their hands to comment or question. This should be modeled so that students do not take over and make the share about themselves with comments that start with, “I can…” or “I have…” The entire share should focus on the sharer. Students can offer compliments or ask thoughtful questions. Students should be reminded that there are other times when they can talk to the sharer about things they have in common, like at lunch or on the playground.
- Round of applause for the sharer.
WHAT TO SHARE
There is no limit to the themes that you can think up for the sharing box. The three biggest hits that I have found for the beginning of the year are:
1) Talent Show
Students put any props that they need in order to perform a talent for the group. This theme offers great insight into your students as they pick their most exciting talent to show off. I have seen xylophone playing, drawing, gymnastics, snowflake cutting, singing, and twirling in a tutu for what must have been eleven minutes. I find that it is easier for some students to show something they can do rather than talk about it. Since this is a broad theme, students seem to be able to come up with something they can do that they feel comfortable showing the group. If students have a video of their talent and would prefer to have that shown instead of performing live, that works well too!
2) Mystery Box
Students place a mystery item into the box, and others ask questions to figure out what is inside. I love the mystery box, because it allows the audience to participate and practice asking questions and it allows the speaker to answer with “yes” or “no,” which usually brings comfort to your quieter kiddos. It also seems that little ones are equally excited when the group guesses their mystery item, or when they are able to stump the class. Everyone is a winner.
3) Something You Made
This one is simple. Kids place something they made in the box. This also allows the student to share about themselves without having to perform. This option is easily combined with the Talent Show option. My favorite part is that it eliminates the show-offy tendency to place the most expensive/biggest/brightest/loudest toy in the box to “wow” the class and horrify the teacher.
WHEN TO SHARE
I have seen effective sharing during morning meeting or closing circle (really, you need to do whatever works best with your tight schedule! AM I right?!?) I, however, think the most ideal time to share is just prior to a more social time of the day such as snack, recess, or lunch. That way, students can continue to speak to the sharer about their show-and-tell. This is a great way to jumpstart friendships and conversations, and to extend the sharer’s moment in the sun.
So give those kiddos the stage for a day. You’ll learn about their big little personalities, and so will their classmates. Hopefully, you will soon be able to retire as an elementary school best friend match-maker. Or don’t retire. Do it on the side. Develop an app. Start charging.