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Freyja Bergthorson


Years ago, when Freyja Bergthorson discovered that despite name games and other icebreaker activities, many of her 150 students didn't know the names of others in their class, she took action in a flash -- a camera flash!

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The eighth-grade English teacher created a student survey to start off the school year. The kids in her classes at Farmwell Station Middle School in Ashburn, Virginia, respond to a questionnaire that includes such information as hobbies and interests, places visited, family members, favorite books, learning goals, and more. Then a student helper snaps a digital photo of each student. Bergthorson prints the photos, and on the second day of school, students find their images and paste the pictures onto their surveys.

"The students often just stick to a small circle of friends, and new students sometimes have trouble getting to know people, so this helps them and all students get to know more about one another," Bergthorson told Education World.

On back-to-school night, the surveys are on display with the students' folders, and a letter they have written to their parents. Bergthorson gathers the surveys afterward and places them in a binder. All the students enjoy looking through the book throughout the year. The students' enduring interest in the binder surprises even their teacher, but she believes it comes from the incredible amount of change and growth they experience in eighth grade. It's fun for them to look back to September.

"The activity helps me remember my students' names and faces, since I get between 120 and 150 new students each year," explained Bergthorson. "I can take the binder home, or look through it in the morning, to help get those last few names and faces down. It also gives me information about each student that I can use to help them select reading material, writing topics, or even just to start a conversation in the hallway."

Bergthorson says that her students get the most from the project when they take control of it. Older students can take the pictures, download the files, and print them as well. The binder becomes "their book" as well as a handy tool for the teacher.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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