Class Warm Ups and Rituals
Classroom warm ups or icebreakers and rituals promote a sense of regularity and stability that is part of a trauma-informed approach to learning. They also recognize the tremendous challenges and ongoing struggles students and faculty have faced and continue to face through the pandemic and beyond.
Warm ups can include asking students, with the whole class or in pairs or groups, to respond to prompts such as:
- One thing you can’t tell about me just by looking at me is [blank] and it’s important for me to tell you that because [blank]
- Share a rose [pleasant thing], thorn [worrisome thing], and bud [hopeful thing]
- Story of your name [in which students describe their name and its meaning to them]
- Try a ‘ricebreaker’: As a way to introduce cultural difference and prompt a meaningful and respectful conversation about differing cultural values, ask students how their family or their culture cooks rice. (And it’s okay if they didn’t grow up eating rice; what was a standard or ‘go to’ component of their meals and why?)
Or try a physical warm up: ask students to rise and do twists, arm swings or jump in place. Physical activity and movement are excellent ways to ground and center students.
Some rituals recommended by New School faculty which they adopted during online teaching and continue to deploy in person include:
- Begin class with a minute or two of silence. Invite students to get comfortable and pay attention to their breath. Then read a prompt and give students five- to ten-minutes to free-write. The prompt could be a short poem or piece of prose or an excerpt from a class reading, and students are guided to engage with the prompt without censoring themselves. This leads to sharing and discussions.
- Play music for a few minutes at the start of class. Students determine the playlist.
- Begin each class by offering students three minutes to make themselves more comfortable. They could use this time to stretch, check their phones, talk quietly with a classmate, journal, close their eyes, or engage in another activity that grounds them.
- For each class session assign one or two students to report on news items that interest them. Spend a few minutes discussing them as a class.
- Start class by having 2-3 students share images that inspire them.
- Consistently build in time for students to talk to one another (while still relating it to course material) so that a sense of community is created and sustained.