Building Community by Sharing Identity Slides


A MiddleWeb Blog

There is so much to do at the start of school, so it feels magical to create an activity that builds your classroom community while teaching essential skills that will be used throughout the year.

Like most teachers, my middle grades students come to class with a wide array of literacy and speaking skills and technological abilities that I need to quickly assess.

Creating an “Identity Slide” gives me background information on my sixth graders’ abilities while I get to know them. This deceptively simple activity should take about an hour to complete, including a brief presentation by everyone in the class.

The root of the idea came from Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo’s “Thin Slides” EduProtocol. Students will create a slide with one image and one phrase that represents themselves, and then share it with the class.

Writing, Tech & Public Speaking

Folded into this simple activity are the following skill sets:

► Writing Skills

True, they’re only writing a few words, but when students present their slide to the class, they will use the CER paragraph modelclaim, evidence, reasoning – to explain their choice.

Students are making a claim about their identity, giving evidence to prove it, and then using reasoning to explain why they are exceptional at their professed talent.

My sample CER is this: “I make the best S’mores. Instead of regular chocolate, I use peanut butter cups or nutella, and instead of regular graham crackers, I use homemade cookies or Oreos. By changing the ingredients, I give people different flavors and a new s’mores experience.”

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Students will get a digital copy of this brief paragraph, with each section color-coded. They will then have color-coded boxes to scaffold the writing of their own mini CER paragraph. With new students, I don’t want to make any assumptions about capabilities; I’ll learn a lot from this small exercise.

► Tech Skills

Once they’ve got the writing finished, it’s time to explore the technology. Many students new to our school are unfamiliar with Google Classroom, where all of our work takes place. This is the perfect opportunity for them to become familiar with creating new documents, sharing them with a teacher, and uploading them to Classroom. I can make note of the students who need extra assistance with this new platform.

After they’ve created their slide deck, we launch into a mini lesson on copyright and where to find photos that they have permission to use. I really enjoy Unsplash and Pixabay; it’s also a great opportunity to show students how to use the Google Images tools section to filter for Creative Commons licenses.

Students learn how to insert and resize an image (not assuming anything!) and how to add text and a drop shadow to make it visually appealing. We print out each student’s slide to hang in our hallway, which gives us the chance to teach students how to use our printers.

► Public Speaking Skills

The more public speaking practice students have, the more comfortable they get with it. The Identity Slide is an easy entry into a year that will be full of public speaking. This presentation isn’t graded, but I review the public speaking rubric that will be used in all their classes throughout the year. That way, they can reflect and set goals for their next presentation.

With only one slide and less than five sentences, their first foray into public speaking is brief and relatively painless. While I would love to have a video of all the students presenting at the beginning of the year as a way to track their progress, that feels too stressful, so recording themselves on their laptops is optional.

An Early Step

Sharing Identity Slides is an early step towards building the community we want: one of acceptance, risk-taking, growth, and reflection. I’m excited that we can start on that path with one simple activity.