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The Royal 7's Get Acquainted

Using People Puzzles, interviews, and Personality Bingo, teachers and students on Bennet Middle Schools Royal 7 seventh grade team get to know one another during the second week of school. Included: Descriptions of getting-to-know-you activities.

By August 31, fourth day of classes at Bennet Middle School, the students' silence has lifted, and seventh grade conversations pop up everywhere. The Royal 7 team is continuing the process of getting to know one another, and teachers are working discussions of rules and expectations into lessons.

In Ms. Brohinsky's first and second period language arts class, students discuss the meaning of unique, and then she asks each student to explain what makes him or her unique

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio is spending several days a month this school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She is observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

To minimize calling out, Ms. Brohinsky has a Koosh ball, which she tosses to the designated speaker. When that student is done speaking, he or she passes it on to a classmate.

Students are shy to respond at first, but after some coaxing and some examples -- special education teacher Mr. Crockwell says he is the only one in the room with three daughters -- the unique qualities begin surfacing:

  • "I'm the only male in the room with glasses."
  • "I was born in Peru."
  • "I was born in Colombia."
  • "I have a cock-eyed cat."
  • "I beat up my brothers."

"See, we all are different individuals, but when we come together, we form a class," Ms. Brohinsky says.

To further illustrate their part in the Royal 7 whole, students start to make a People Puzzle. Each one is given a blank sheet of light cardboard, cut into a puzzle-piece shape. Everyone in the class, including Ms. Brohinsky, Mr. Crockwell, and a paraprofessional, Molly Cort, has to decorate the piece with their name, at least three activities they enjoy, and color it. When they are done, the pieces will fit together into a mural-sized puzzle, representing all the pieces of the Royal 7's.

Ms. Brohinsky shows the class her completed piece, and explains that one of her activities was running off a cliff wearing a parachute, prompting Mr. Crockwell to ask, "And why would you jump off perfectly good solid ground?"

The Bennet campus.
Click here to see a larger photo of the campus.


The getting-to-know one another process continues in language arts and social studies classes. Students in Mr. Kienle's language arts class are assigned to interview a classmate, write up the interview, and then read the interview to the class. "This way you get to know each other and practice your writing skills," Kienle said.

Again, many of the students are reluctant to share at first, but encouragement by Mr. Kienle and Mr. Crockwell draws a few volunteers. "Mark, that was awesome," Mr. Crockwell said after one boy took the plunge, although Mark dismissed the praise.

Mr. Kienle finally has to resort to drawing names from a class list. Students quiz their classmates on where they were born, what video games they play, their favorite foods (pizza is the frequent winner in this category), and their favorite bands.

Mr. Tracy begins social studies class, as he always does, with a Daily Starter, a short question students answer as soon as they enter. Today they are asked to write three ways to show responsibility, one of the Royal 7's Three R's, which are respect, responsibility, and readiness.

Mr. Tracy also shows them the word homework written by four different teachers, and asks students to match the word with the teacher who wrote it. After a few tries where no one got them all right, Mr. Tracy uses this as an example of why it is so important to put their names on assignments: handwriting does not tell him who they are.

He ends the period with Personality Bingo. All students receive list of items, and need to chat with classmates to find the student who matches their bedtime, last movie seen, favorite food, and other characteristics. Anyone getting Bingo earns a small prize.

Students scramble around the room, asking people their names, and calling, "I got one!" when they find a match.


In other classes, routines are falling into place.

Students take a pre-test on reducing fractions and measuring in technology education, to prepare them for the projects they will do during the year.

Chorus teacher Cheryl Hilton sees her students for the first time on the fourth day of school. Students are rapt as she tells them in a conversational tone what to expect this year. Ms. Hilton notes that there are more students than she anticipated; so far 13 girls and eight boys.

Math class is spent identifying prime and composite numbers and circling them, so students can use the data to do their homework.

In science, students read an article about a group of middle schoolers who discovered some deformed frogs, sparking a major scientific investigation. Mr. Sutherland uses this as a launch pad for discussing how to approach science.

"How do we study science?" Mr. Sutherland says. "We start by asking questions. Use your five senses. Before you have a question, you have to have an observation."

Working in groups, the students are assigned to follow directions to solve a problem. They must cut a piece of paper into five pieces and use them to form a fish, and then answer questions in complete sentences, Mr. Sutherland says.

Folding difficulties result in more follow-up, because the pieces do not match the illustration. Kenny is working with a girl, and he says, "She's better than me." "He cut it wrong," she responds.

And rules are being enforced. Mr. Sutherland collects forms from students -- they keep one copy of a signed form in their binders. If that form makes it intact until the end of the year, they get a special prize. No one is dismissed at the end of the period until he initials NH -- no homework -- in their agendas.

At the beginning of class, Kenny came in and asked Mr. Sutherland if he could get his homework from his book bag, which is in his locker.

No, Mr. Sutherland replies. "Remember the three R's," and points to responsibility and readiness on the board.