The first day of school for middle and high school students can be pretty mundane. Students move from class to class listening to the teacher talk about the syllabus and what they will learn in the coming semester. They may also do an ice breaker where they say something about themselves, like their favorite ice cream flavor. As the day progresses, they have forgotten who likes mint chocolate chip and what class required a binder and which class needed the syllabus signed.
In my elective courses like psychology, I have colored pencils on the tables when students walk into the room. I then give them a simple form to fill out that has a box for them to color anything they want that tells me something about them. Some students look a little perplexed about what to draw or about their artistic ability, while some are “too cool” initially to jump into it. However, most students welcome the opportunity to take time and color while I walk around the room and personally welcome them to the class and learn their names if they are new. If I can see what they are coloring (a little difficult for the first two or three students as they are just starting), I can then strike up a conversation that is focused on them. In a few minutes, I know something about the student that I can bring up from time to time throughout the semester. If they drew themselves at a drum set, I ask them about their opportunities to play. If they are a gamer, I can see what is popular at the moment. Whatever they drew, I can acknowledge it at another time, thus demonstrating to them that I was paying attention to them and their drawing.