As most you are gearing up for the first day of school, you are probably planning out your first week or two and trying to think of ways to build community and connect with students. I want to share two things that I am going to be doing at the start of this year in order to build relationships with students.
Building relationships with students is the foundation of teaching. Without a good relationship with students, the classroom environment becomes an ugly dreaded beast no one wants to come into. To avoid that, try taking some time out of the first few busy days of school to let students know about you and make a conscious effort to get to know them.
I always feel like getting to know students is very difficult for me. I think it is because of two factors. 1) I teach in the target language and new students can’t really understand details about my life and 2) I am busy. I have 12 weeks and 70 minute classes to get a semester’s worth of work in. Is anyone with me on this struggle?
So here it goes…
This idea of mine isn’t new but it is something I have never done in the classroom. Have you heard of the Spaghetti Tower Challenge? If you haven’t, click on the link to see what it is all about. If you have heard about it, have you ever tried it with your students? On the first day of school I have every student’s name on an index card and I sit them in alphabetical order (so I can memorize them quicker). After I take roll, I will collect the cards and shuffle them then put students in random groups. Have students introduce themselves to their group and share something about themselves others may not know and they feel comfortable sharing. I give my name and tell something about me. I usually share my love of travel and gardening and about my 2 Puggles. Then I will share the rules of the spaghetti tower challenge and let them go. I think students will love this. If you try this, post a video or pictures and tag me (@CreativeASL).
Getting to Know You
For this activity you will need access to computers or laptops. I have a set of Chromebooks in my classroom so I will be using those. I will assign students a job at becoming a curator of themselves. Curation is the process of gathering high quality materials and in this case students will gather material about themselves to share with the class. How you ask? Pinterest of course. Students will be tasked with creating a board collecting things that represent their interests, favorite things, ideas, philosophies and so on. I will not give a specific list because I want it to be authentically them. However, I will give them ideas like I mentioned above. If you don’t like Pinterest or can’t use it on your school site, try using elink to create boards. Do create a board yourself and share yours before asking students to do this (I highly suggest having yours ready the day you assign this assignment to give the students an example to follow). Give students a few days to curate them. On the assigned date have students pull up their board on the computer they will be using. Give each student a stack of Post-it notes and as they travel around the room looking at each person’s curated board, they can leave a note for them. Notes can focus on what they liked about the other student, same interests they have, things they have in common, something cool they learned about the other person or just a positive note. Treat this like a carousel type of activity but allow students to freely move from desk to desk. If students don’t really know who is who by the day the assignment is due, have students create a document with a picture and their name (maybe of a summer trip) and leave it on the desk next to the computer so students can put a face with the name and interests. Students can use pictures from their own personal library and images,memes and songs from the Internet.
Let’s gear up and get going to our best school year yet!