I change my seating arrangement for each new lesson. That's about every two weeks. This year I am investing the time (even if it is in English) for students to get to know their new group members. My students are seated in twos, with groups of four. As soon as class starts, and they are all in their new seats, I hand out a list of questions for them to discuss. The discussions are lively -- and, while they are not all in Spanish, I do get a lot of "¿Cómo se dice . . .?" interaction with students, which is a good barometer or formative assessment that lets me know which students are truly dedicated to the "Say it in Spanish if you possibly can" rule. I want them to make connections with their new groups, so I don't want this time to feel formal or graded -- except for the name learning -- I do put on the pressure there!
I'm constantly on the lookout for good small-group ice-breaker activities so I can vary the topics and instructions for this important 5-7 minutes of class time. For today's activities, I used an idea I found here: 40 ice-breakers for small groups. It's a PDF that will download to your computer.
The first question is always, "What are the names of the people in your group?" For the rest of the questions today, we went for group records: "Who has traveled the farthest?", "Who has the most pets?", "Who has the strangest hobby?" and "Who has eaten the weirdest thing?" The students were excited to share with the whole class after they got to know one another. I don't always take the time to process every single question, but they were so enthusiastic that today we did. As we went around the room, I asked a question -- in Spanish, such as "Who, in your group, has traveled the farthest?" and the group members had to say the name of the person who had the group record. They proved that they knew one another's names, and the rest of the class got a chance to learn them as well. Then we took a moment to find out more about some of the record holders.
It was an activity that took about 12 minutes today. But those 12 minutes will pay off for the next two weeks!
Happy teaching! Gotta get ready for Back to School night!