August 27, 2017

Breaking the ice with truths and a lie

Posted by Laura Guertin

The game Two Truths and a Lie is a popular activity used to break the ice at social events and at the start of meetings. But you may want to think about using it in your courses. Middle school to university classrooms are using this same game to break the ice between students (see this article and this Prezi to learn more).

The game is very simple to play – you ask each of your students (and/or yourself, if you chose to participate) to write down two truths and one lie. Then, the discussion begins. No other tools are necessary, and the game generates a lively discussion and fun environment to kick off the semester.

I decided to do this game with my students on the first day of the semester, with myself providing the truths and lies. I started by asking the students if they were willing to complete a diagnostic survey for me, so I could see where their current knowledge is with Earth science. I asked them to define some terms (global warming, sustainability, etc.), asked them to list three items they hope to learn this semester, had them reflect upon why it is important to learn Earth science, etc. I told them that I make no assumptions about who each of them are and what their content knowledge is coming into the course. I state that they probably know just as little about me as I know about them. For example, I then put this slide up and asked them to hold up the number of fingers they guessed was the correct response:

I have to say, I was surprised that the majority of students knew that that the answer was The Bachelor. I asked them why they thought it was The Bachelor, and they said that as a scientist, I was too smart to watch that show (interestingly, the students identified me first as a scientist and not as a female). I followed up and asked if they really felt I watched World Wrestling Entertainment. I continued on to explain how, growing up around all of my uncles on the weekends, I watched WWF with Hulk Hogan, Jake The Snake Valentine, etc. Then, I shared that Law & Order was my grandmother’s favorite show. She didn’t understand geology or what I was doing in graduate school, but as she watched that TV show every day, I would watch at least one episode a week so we had something to share when we talked.

Notice I expanded beyond listing two truths. I added a couple of extra truths so the students could learn more about me. I showed a second slide, as I was waiting for some students to finish the diagnostic survey:

My students thought the answer was Bruno Mars (apparently, scientists are not cool enough to listen to Bruno!). The real answer was Counting Crows (my husband said I should have swapped that one out for Taylor Swift, as the students might have thought I have kids and therefore would go to that concert).

In any event, this was a really fun activity for me to use to introduce myself to my students. I have finished the first week of the semester, and I can honestly say this is one of the most engaged and participatory groups I have ever taught. Maybe truths and lies had something to do with it? Was it effective in humanizing my scientist identity? I am looking forward to sharing more truths about me as the semester continues…