Back to school’s around the corner and here’s a First Day of School activity to help your students get to know each other.
Lots of teachers have used a human bingo graphic organizer as an icebreaker and a quick way to get students interacting with each other.
- Each square on the bingo card has a different question.
- Students write their name in the free space in the middle of the board.
- Then, they go around the classroom introducing themselves and they try to find someone who has done one of the questions in the boxes.
The basic idea is to meet your classmates and learn something about them.
For example, find someone who likes to sing. Find someone who can dance. Find someone who stayed at home this summer vacation. Find someone who left the city this summer vacation
You get the idea. The fantastic thing about this lesson is that you can modify it for any grade.
But the Human Bingo Get-to-know-you icebreaker can be more than simply an icebreaker to use at the start of the school year.
You can also use it as a verbal communication mini lesson.
FREE Back to School Activity: Human Bingo (Communication Mini-Lesson) TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Oral communication is more than just public speaking.
- Communication is a process
- Before you begin the Human Bingo Back to School icebreaker…
- How to play Human Bingo (as a communication mini-lesson)
- Rules of Human Bingo Back-to-School icebreaker (as a communication mini-lesson)
- Communication Strategies to help you play Human Bingo
- Download the Free Human Bingo Activity (zipped file)
Oral communication is more than just public speaking.
Being able to make small talk with new people is an important skill for us to have:
- whether we’re chatting with potential business clients,
- making small talk with the person interviewing us for a job, or
- just chitchatting with people at the holiday party.
Or, in kid-speak:
- chatting with new people in your class,
- chatting with friends of your friends that you just met, or
- chatting with other people in the group that your teacher assigns to you.
Or, in teacher-example:
- chatting with other teachers before the staff meeting begins,
- chatting with parents before the parent-teacher interview starts,
- chatting with your new principal to get to know them.
You get the idea…
Communication is a process.
We can use strategies to communicate more effectively in this process…
The sender can send a message, but it’s also important for the receiver to give feedback that shows they’re paying attention. You can watch the YouTube video or just check out the image below.
Some of us love small talk and some of us hate it. Either way, we can all use strategies to get better at it.
Even though Back to School icebreakers can be fun ways for your students to get to know each other, it can also be your first opportunity to build a growth mindset and collaborative classroom!
Before you begin the Human Bingo Back to School icebreaker…
Brainstorm some strategies with your students to communicate more effectively.
- The goal of playing Human Bingo is to meet people, but also to be friendly and to create a friendly class space.
- This is an opportunity for us to explore the communication process and to try to communicate effectively (which in this case means being friendly!)
Teacher Tip: You know your class and grade best. Modify the following suggestions to meet your needs!
Teacher prompt: When we’re chatting with someone…
- What can we do to make the other person feel comfortable in chatting with us?
- What are some things that we can do to show the other person that we’re listening?
- What are some strategies we can try to be friendly?
- What are some strategies we can use to make people like us?
Sometimes when we’re brainstorming ideas, one strategy to try is to ask the opposite question to generate ideas. And then whatever you come up with, do the opposite.
So for example,
- What can we do in a conversation to make the other person not like us or feel uncomfortable?
- What would our body language look like if we don’t care about what the person is saying?
- What would our voice sound like if we were bored in the conversation?
How to play Human Bingo (as a communication mini-lesson)
Explicitly teach students a script to use when they’re going up to someone, even if they already know the person. Even if they’ve been besties since kindergarte.
- Person A: Hi my name is Mike, what’s your name?
- Person B: Hi Mike, my name is Hoda. It’s nice to meet you.
- Person A [asks a question from the bingo sheet]: Did you travel outside of the country this summer?
- Person B [answers the question, and then gets to ask a question from their bingo sheet]: No, we had a staycation and stayed around here. Can you play a musical instrument?
- Person A: Yes!
- Person B: Awesome! Can you sign your name here?
Rules of Human Bingo Back-to-School icebreaker (as a communication mini-lesson)
- You can’t simply go up to someone and give them your bingo card. Don’t just say, hey, sign something. The point is to have small talk.
- You can’t simply sign something if you haven’t done it because we’re going to take it up at the end of class. So if you say that you can recite the alphabet backwards, just make sure that you can. (Pro tip: if the alphabet is written on the board somewhere, it makes it easier to recite the alphabet backwards…)
- Spelling counts, especially when it’s somebody’s name. When you find somebody who has done one of the questions on your bingo card, you can just ask them how to spell their name, or ask them to sign their name in the box.
- You have to introduce yourself. Even if you already know the person’s name. The point is just to practice small talk.
- When you finish and get blackout – which means that you have a name for every card, then you say bingo… and then help other people finish their bingo cards. You’re not allowed to tell people the answers (whose name goes with which questions), but you could give them hints like, oh you should speak to Becky.
Depending on the number of students in your class, you’ll have to make a rule about whether or not you can use the same person’s name more than once.
After a certain amount of time, you might want to just end the game.
Depending on how much time you have, you may want to take up some of these answers. It might be neat to see who in the class can roll their tongue, or recite the alphabet backwards.
Communication Strategies to help you play Human Bingo
Here are a few verbal and non-verbal communication strategies you might ask your students to try and different stages of the game.
Talking explicitly about strategies helps students to realize people aren’t born gifted communicators. It’s a skill.
- Strong communicators like communicating.
- So, they do it more.
- So, they have more opportunities to get better at communicating.
- So, they make mistakes, but also have more chances to learn from their mistakes…
- And then they get better at communicating.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
Communication Strategy: Mirror the other person
Most of us naturally do this, but one strategy to try to put the other person at ease is to mirror their body language. So for example…
- if they’re sitting down, then you sit down.
- If they are leaning on a table, you lean on a table.
- If they are leaning in with their body, you can also lean in.
Of course, try to do this naturally.
Communication Strategy: Keep an open body posture.
Closing your arms can make you seem cold or unapproachable or grumpy.
Communication Strategy: Smile.
Seem friendly. Be friendly.
Communication Strategy: Nod your head.
Nodding your head is a simple way for the listener to show that they’re listening.
(Or, to explain it in terms of the communication process, it’s a way for the receiver of the message to give feedback to the sender that they got the message!)
Communication Strategy: Paraphrase the other person
When you repeat back what you heard, it lets the sender of the message know that you understood. (Or, what you understood, so they can fix their message if there was any misunderstanding.)
“Oh, you had a staycation and stayed at home? How was that?”
Communication Strategy: Use the person’s name in the conversation.
Some of us are fantastic at remembering people’s names.
I’m not one of those people.
So one strategy I use is I try to use the other person’s name in conversation.
- It could be when we are ending the conversation: “Okay, see you later Mike!”
- It could be when I’m asking a question: “Oh, that’s interesting Mike, what do raw slugs taste like?”
Communication Strategy: be aware of people’s personal space.
Different people are comfortable in different ways.
Everyone has a personal bubble around them and if you get too close or inside of that personal bubble, it can make people feel uncomfortable. And that’s the opposite of trying to create a friendly comfortable space.
Be aware that different cultures might have larger or smaller personal bubbles than what you are used to.
If you use the mirroring strategy, then chances are, if they’re backing up from you, then you might make them more at ease if you back up a little as well. Maybe you’re too close and in their personal space…
Communication Strategy: Keep the conversation going with follow-up questions
It can be hard to meet people, so when you find something that they have done on your bingo card,
ask a follow-up question or two. (Especially as they’re signing your bingo card!)
Sometimes awkward silences are, well, awkward. So, if you ask questions, it helps to fill in the silence.
Communication Strategy: Make eye contact.
In North American culture, we usually consider eye contact as a sign of respect and as a way to provide feedback that shows the other person that you’re listening.
But be aware, that in other cultures, eye contact might be seen as a sign of disrespect. Something to think about.
Click here to download a zipped file that contains
- a Word Document (.DOCx) to modify and
- a PDF version to print
NOTE: If you are going to use the Word Document, you may need to install the comic book font (BANGERS) that we use in our documents. Instructions and the free font are included in the zipped file!