Curriculum Resources

First-Day Icebreaker Activities

Teachers have come up with lots of creative ways to use Eli, at all different levels, but what they all have in common is the initial work of starting a course, enrolling students, getting them oriented, and kicking off reviews.

This simple set of exercises is meant to help get you and your students up and running in Eli. Once you’ve taken care of the initial setup and signup phase, you can have students reviewing in Eli on the first day of class. Below, you will find a list of those initial setting up steps as well as an icebreaker writing and review task that can help students practice the basic moves for giving and using feedback in Eli.

  1. Activity Overview
  2. Setting Up and Signing In
  3. Writing Task
  4. Review Task
  5. Additional Resources

Activity Overview

This writing and review activity is designed to give students some easy, hands-on practice working with Eli. It can be used in any class situation, but it fits well in a 50-minute session in which students will write a brief text and conduct a short review of some of their classmates’ writing. This will help them not only get used to Eli Review, but also introduce them to the kind of criteria-driven reviews they’ll be doing and allow you an opportunity to model effective feedback for them.

If you haven’t used Eli’s curriculum resources before, get up to speed quickly with the Curriculum Tutorial.

Setting Up and Signing In

As with any technology, Eli requires a bit of setup before you can start using it with your students. Fortunately, almost all of those can be done before students set foot in the classroom. These are the steps that need to be completed before you can start your activities:

If you haven’t yet completed these steps, you might consider going through the brief Instructor’s User Guide to get yourself up to speed on how Eli works and having students review the Student’s User Guide to help get them primed for your activity.

Writing Task: 10 minutes

This writing activity is meant to start students reflecting on their previous experiences with peer review, which they often come into our classes feeling negatively toward because of previous experiences. It can also give you an opportunity to talk about why you’ll be asking them to review and how you hope they’ll grow as reviewers and writers through that process.

The timing of this activity could certainly be adjusted depending on grade level. This could easily be a five-minute paragraph, or a longer and more structured essay- three paragraphs one on personal history with peer review, one that described features they found beneficial, and another describing where they were dissatisfied.

Pro tip: it’s a good idea to have students compose in an application outside of a web browser, which are still prone to crashes. If students compose in a Microsoft Word document, for example, they can easily save a copy of their writing on their computers and then copy-and-paste into Eli when they’re finished.


Take 15 minutes to write about your prior experience with peer review. Briefly describe how much experience with it you have, how you worked with peers (in pairs, groups, etc), and how you interacted (reading out loud, conversational dialogue, etc). Describe in detail the kinds of feedback you received from your reviewers, but also the kind of feedback you gave to the people you reviewed. Be sure to mention if you found the feedback you received useful and, if not, what would make feedback more useful.

Find in Eli: search task repository for keyword FD1

Use This Task in Eli

Review Task: 25 minutes

This activity serves multiple purposes. It is meant to be a quick activity that will give students a brief introduction to Eli’s review interface. It will also give students the opportunity to closely read their classmate’s texts and likely see that their prior experiences with review aren’t unusual.

Lastly, this review uses two response types meant to provide you with two sources of real-time data you can use to launch discussions with students. The likert scale in this review will give you a way to quantify student experiences with review, and the final comments will give you simple examples of feedback that you can highlight as models of helpful feedback (or to critique).

The Eli Review user guide has more details if you’d like to learn more about how Eli’s review response types produce data.

Instructions: Take a few moments to read the reflection your classmates wrote about their experiences with review. As you read, consider: How does their experience relate to your own? If they had a negative experience, what is something they might do to improve their next experience with review?

For each peer you’ve been assigned, remember to complete the scale, explain your answer, and to write a final comment. Remember that both I and your classmate will see your feedback, so do your best to be thoughtful and helpful.

Likert Scale Prompt: How does the writer’s description of their experiences with peer review align to your own?

Explain your response selected

Final Comment Prompt: Choose one detail from the writer’s description of their peer review experience and think about how you relate to it. Describe in detail how it is similar or how it differs. If the writer feels negatively about review, offer advice on what they might do to improve their experience. Remember that your classmate will see this comment, so do your best to be thoughtful and helpful.

Find in Eli: search task repository for keyword FD1

Use This Task in Eli

Tips for setup and coaching

Additional Resources

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