One of the most important phases of creating a supportive classroom community is to get to know your students as quickly as possible so you can connect with each one on a meaningful level. You’ll find that just about every aspect of a successful classroom community is dependent on this knowledge.
As the adult in the classroom, you are in charge of making sure you have a positive relationship with every student. You will be the one who builds the bridge, who reaches out to your students, who inspires them to do their best. Many factors can negatively affect the relationship you develop with your students, but only you can make sure it is viable. A successful relationship with your students will be just like other meaningful relationships in your life; it will require patience, planning and commitment.
Although there are dozens of ways to get to know your students, you will only need to choose a few of the most appropriate ones for your students to establish the solid relationships that will make a difference in your classroom. Here are several strategies you can adapt to begin to establish those necessary connections with your students:
- Speak with your students’ previous teachers and carefully study your students’ permanent records. This type of research will not only yield academic data, but also helpful personal information.
- Observe your students as they interact with each other informally, particularly at the start and end of class. You can learn a great deal by paying attention when your students talk to each other.
- Ask students to briefly describe themselves to you—in 100 words or 50 words or in ten words.
- End class by asking students to reflect on the day’s instruction. Although this would usually be about the content of the lesson, you can learn a great deal about your students by asking them to write about themselves from time to time as well.
- Ask students to make three statements about themselves to the class. Two of the statements must be true, and the third should be false. Have other students try to guess which statement is false.
- Have students contribute slides for a class slide show. They can include photographs, favorite sayings, interests and other personal information. You can run this as a continuous loop periodically throughout the term.
- Ask students to list five things they can contribute to the class and then display the list in a prominent place in the classroom
- Pay attention to body language. Many emotions are telegraphed unconsciously through body language.
- Talk with parents and family members. Ask them to fill out questionnaires or write brief notes about their child.
- Give students inventories to assess their learning styles and interests.
- Ask students to write personal responses to various topics through journals, exit slips or learning logs.
- Pay attention to the books your students read and to the televisions shows, games and music that interest them.
- Talk with students about the way they prefer to organize their personal belongings and class work.
Offer students icebreaker exercises and pay attention to their interactions. One very good online resource for these activities can be found at this site:
- “Classroom Icebreakers” at Icebreakers.ws (http://www.icebreakers.ws/classroom-icebreakers)
Julia G. Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She has been a teacher in the public schools of Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years.
Equally, children have to learn at some point that they can't spend every waking moment doing what they want and being where they want to be. Any job they do will involve performing tasks that don't particularly interest them; any responsibility will have times when it is onerous and burdensome. Learning to accept and deal with this, and get on with it anyway, is a crucial life skill.