I’ve used this list of 100 questions as a first-day-of-school activities for many years, with students and also with adults. It’s fun, active and easy to adapt. It can be used in small chunks – a few questions at a time – or all at once, which makes it useful for filling any extra time before the bell rings or whenever you have a few minutes.
This summer, however, I started thinking about it in a new light. I was part of a book group that read Patrick Lencioni’s Five Disfunctions of a Team. The team I work with has changed, so it seemed like a good choice leading into the busy back-to-school season.
The book is a fable, telling the story of a team of executives at a struggling tech firm. While the issues in their business-related work are very different than ours in education, I was struck by how the “dysfunctions” he described in the group dynamics are very much the same, for us and for the students in our classes.
We want students to feel a sense of teamwork, to be comfortable working together, making mistakes and learning together. The first dysfunction Lencioni highlights is the absence of trust. A group of people cannot work together well if they don’t trust each other. The first step to developing trust is simply getting to know each other.
I think most teachers take time at the beginning of the year for get-to-know-you activities, especially at the elementary level for students who will be together most of the day.
These 100 Questions are very simple, but they can help students find similarities with others, help to make connections. There have been years when I’ve rushed through the entire list, asking the questions and having the students respond by standing up for “yes” and sitting down for “no.” When I use this going forward, I’ll take more time, giving students chances to talk with each other about their responses, maybe pausing after the section of questions about summer activities, for example, and asking kids to choose their favorite and to find another student with the same favorite, so they have opportunities to talk with each other and meet kids they might not otherwise meet right away.
The connections the students make with each other make all the difference.