1. To get an idea of my students' writing, I ask them to write me a "Who am I?" letter
Using an inverted triangle format, broad, hard clues at beginning, getting easier as the triangle funnels to a close.
All of the students have fun guessing as do I. I have the most fun writing my own letter.

2. Another idea is to hide adjectives written on index cards all over the classroom. The students search for 4 adjectives that describe themselves and stick it on the white board under their name. This helps the become accustomed to the classroom and where everything is located. It is also a great review on adjectives.

3. Make a video tour of your classroom that can be accessed online.

4. Everyone stand up. Do your best zombie impersonation. Teacher, make sure you do yours, too. Really, do it. Gather in groups of 3 or 4 and do about 5 seconds of zombie for each other. What's a happy, angry, hungry, frustrated zombie look and act like? (teacher, create a list of adjectives for students to consider on their own) What common characteristics are you seeing? Look across the room. What similarities do you all have in your zombies? Write a description of zombies, complete with (at least) stick figures showing how to act like a zombie, showing the different poses and attitudes. Make this like a (survival guide/acting guide) -- teacher, pick one of those to make this clearer for the students. This should grow into a discussion about character traits of zombies. Are zombies concerned about fashion? Do they need to sleep? Would they take time to do their hair? What do they want? Correct answer: BRAAAAAAAINS. All of these things go into a discussion of characterization. Why do we all have similar interpretations of zombies? That goes into a discussion of archetype. Take your pick. Either way, this is a good first day activity to get kids out of their shells and thinking that your class is different. Where else are they going to be expected to pull out their best George Romero? And there's a clear reason we're doing it: to begin the discussion of how we know who characters are, what they want, and where they are going. Extension: have students write the story of their zombie persona. Who were they before they became a zombie? How does that effect who they are as a zombie? How did they turn into a zombie?

5. This year, I came up with the idea to have my high school students do a creative writing piece called "Portrait of Myself as a Learner." They can choose any writing method they want: poem, story, essay, song, etc. and will give me a window into who they are as a learner. I will give them some guiding questions on the board such as: "Do you learn visually?" "Do you learn more by listening?" "Do you have trouble focusing?" "Are you driven academically?" "Are you a procrastinator?" "What is your favorite subject?" etc., etc. Then they will have time to do their creative writing piece. This serves multiple purposes: 1. To get the students writing right away. 2. To give me a window into who they each are as individual and unique students. 3. I will display them at back to school night to give their parents a picture of who their son or daughter is as a student.

High School Example 1