Another tradition I have done every year since I started teaching is to ask students about their weekend every single period, every single Monday. This is probably the quickest I have had students acclimate to the routine and open up so much. I would say about half or more of every class will share their weekend stories without prompting. And someone or two in every class asks me about *my* weekend (I’ve found this usually doesn’t happen until students get older or have had me repeatedly).
Today I literally felt the phrase ‘a cacophony of voices’- it was like every class was overflowing with stories to tell. No awkward silences, I had to slow them down so we could hear each other.
The classroom environment just felt very home-y today.
If you want to get emotional, just ask students to write about who they would call and what their last words would be if they knew they were going to die (in reference to Flight 93 and a reflection paper they had to write).