Penetrating the summer haze… breaking the ice
One of my favorite icebreakers is a listening activity called “The Wright Family Vacation.” Many years ago, I stole it from an English teacher who wrote a now defunct blog called Redkudu. Even she did not know who originally created the activity or from whom she stole it. I like it because it gets students out of their seats and involved in an activity that is fun, educational, and related to some important classroom management issues. Hope you like it!
Procedure: The Wright Family Vacation
1. Hand every student in a class a penny and organize them into a circle.
2. Read the following instructions:
This is a listening exercise. Every time I say the word right, pass your penny to the person on your right. Every time I say the word left, pass your penny to the person on the left. [Practice once so everyone has this down.] Remember to listen for the words ‘right’ and ‘left’ as I read you this story about the Wright family. [Tease the kids if they did not pass their pennies. Remind them it’s a listening exercise.]
3. Read the story:
The Wright family had decided it was the right time to take a vacation. They had never left their dog before, but knew he would be all right if the neighbors looked out for him. So, on Tuesday, the Wright family left their dog and plunged right into a vacation to Arizona.
[Pause reading to make sure everyone has a penny, then continue.]
As soon as Mr. Wright backed out of his driveway, he took a left at the corner and anticipated driving right through town on his way to the Wright family destination. But suddenly, after signaling left, and turning right, the whole Wright family nearly had an accident. Tommy Wright became so upset that he threw up, while Penny Wright left the back seat and bounded to the front seat.
[Pause, make sure everyone has a penny. Continue.]
Mr Wright decided to stop the car to take care of the situation. It was then that Mrs. Wright remembered she had left her iron on and demanded that Mr. Wright take her right back home. Mr. Wright left the car and told Mrs. Wright that he would be right back. Instead, Mr. Wright kicked the left tire and left his family sitting in the heat. In the meantime, Baby Wright had left mother’s lap and crawled right through the mess in the backseat that Tommy Wright had left.
[Pause reading. Make sure everyone has a penny. Continue]
Mr. Wright returned and told Mrs. Wright that they would go right back home to turn off the iron that she had left on. Right away, he backed out and turned left as Mrs. Wright picked up Baby Wright and returned Penny Wright to the backseat. Left holding a dirty baby, Mrs. Wright felt sure that this vacation should have been left in her dreams.
Follow up with some questions
Start with some basic comprehension:
Where were the Wright’s going?
What day did they leave?
What are some things that happened to them?
Move on to pertinent, more reflective questions:
Why was it difficult to remember what happened in the story?
What obstacles stood in the way of listneing?
What are some obstacles to listening in class?
What are some solutions to these problems?
What strategies can you use in this class to make sure we are able to hear the information we need?
How can the teacher let students know they should stop talking or listen?
What is an appropriate way to tell other students they should stop talking, pay attention, and/or listen?
Student Interest Survey
After students have had this opportunity to move around and discuss some important classroom expectations and issues, I have them fill out this Student Information Sheet and Interest Survey.