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A get-to-know-you activity that isn’t terrible

How many times have you gone to a conference or a meeting and knew you would be forced to participate in a get-to-know-you activity and you actually liked doing it? Do you actually learn much about other participants or enjoy doing it? I’m guessing that you answered no to both of those questions. I wanted to get to know students on a deeper level instead of facts about them like they had a brother and like to eat pizza! That is when I created the “Spirit Business” activity. It gives them time to think and reflect on themselves and lets me learn more about them and their academic level in the first week.

The Spirit Business activity asks them to choose a business that they think represents their personality. I give them a few questions to guide them, but also want them to think of other ways that the business might represent them. I also start slowly using business terms that will come up later in the course so that they get some pre-exposure to the ideas before they are studied in depth.

Here are the questions I pose to them:

- What industry do you identify with? Maybe related to a hobby, passion or other activity you participate in

- Do you identify with a multi-national business or a small, local shop? How could that relate to your personality?

- Is your business daring economically or more cautious?

- What kind of marketing do they do? Is it for all consumers or is it for a niche market?

- Is corporate social responsibility important to the business? Do they care about the environment, their customers and others in addition to their profits? What do you care about and put time and energy into?

After we talk through these questions, I explain more in-depth what I am looking for. They should do some investigation into a business that goes beyond the name, the product, and the logo. I want to see that they looked at the company’s webpage and went beyond the homepage while also thinking about who they are, what they find important and how they want to transmit that information to me.

To show them what I am looking for, I provide them with the rubric. This allows them to practice their grade skills and shows be how well they can look at a piece of work and grade it critically. The task requires them to write between 150-200 words. Here is the rubric I use:

I show them this as my first answer and give it a score for each category.

Burger King is my spirit company. I chose this business because I like eating food. I also like their colors because they are blue, red, and yellow. Blue is my favorite color. Also, they are in a lot of places so I can eat them when I travel. And, Burger King is cheap and I am a student so I don’t have a lot of money. To conclude, I had a birthday party at Burger King once and it was a lot of fun.

I ask them what is wrong with this response. I try and elicit ideas like it is too general, it is too short, we don’t really learn anything personal about the writer, there was no in-depth research into the company, etc.

Then, I show them the following example about myself. I like this because they can see a good example but also need to be critical of it and not assume it is going to get top marks.

My spirit business is Alaska Airlines. I am interested in travel and love exploring new places. I have traveled to 42 different countries. The best places I have been are Switzerland, China, and Iceland. In addition, the company cares about the environment and strives to improve the airline industry. In 2016, they recycled 84% of all materials used on board, which accounted for nearly 2000 tons of waste that didn’t enter a landfill (Alaska Airline, n.d.). I care about the environment and grow my own plants, compost vegetable scraps, and would love to have my own bee hive. Finally, Alaska Airlines and I are always trying to improve ourselves. This year, Alaska Airlines partnered with an AI (artificial intelligence) app to make customer experience better as well as reducing waste across the company (Niknam, 2021). I also try to improve my myself and my teaching through reading books, doing professional development, and coordinating with other teachers. Last summer I did an IB examiner training course, read 5 books, and worked with a fellow teacher on a project. To conclude, Alaska Airlines was once a small company from a small city in Alaska that became known on the national stage. My journey from my small town in the USA to Spain has been similar. Twelve years ago, I never thought I would still be living and teaching in Spain.

Once the students see this example, I ask them to repeat the previous task and go through each category and score it on a scale of 0 to 2. Students need to be very careful because it is not perfect. It does not have a reference section and it is too long. At this point, I ask students if they understand the requirements and know how to do both in-text citations and a reference section. This is especially hard for most students I have worked with and I will touch on this more in another post.

I really enjoy reading this assignment and getting to know the students a little bit better. It is my first chance to see their writing skills, their command of business terms, and learn about their likes and possibly dislikes. They also enjoy going back to these writings at the end of Year 2 to see how their ideas about themselves and their business have changed!

What are some of your favorite starter activities? How do you think it is best to learn about students? Let me know in the comments below.

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