In planning our instruction and methods, it is helpful to get to understand our students and show that we are invested in their success and care about them. By conveying this, it can help to engage and motivate our students and also develop our classroom culture.
What Should We Do First?
There's no doubt that it can be difficult to get back into the daily routine of school after the summer break. But if we set a good example by engaging our students in conversations, taking an interest in who they are and encouraging and providing opportunities for peer connections as well, it will positively impact the learning environment. The new year is a time to reconnect, to build new relationships, to share our experiences and to learn about each student brings to the classroom. So I think that some of the first steps, if not the first step, should be getting to know the students.
There are many ways to learn about our students. We can have fun by playing a game or doing another interactive activity, and use this as a way to learn about one another. We can use this as a time to encourage students to share their thoughts, interests and share what and how they hope to learn in your class. Through these kinds of activities and conversations, we learn about each other and start to create our classroom culture.
Connecting w/ Students: Learning About & From Them
There are so many digital options available today, it just takes a little time to find one that works best for you and your students. Some examples are setting up a classroom website or using an LMS. I use Edmodo and have had great success with it over the past few years. Students can connect with me and ask questions, share their work, and much more. It is a good way to make resources available to the students.
Other options are Schoology or creating a website with Wikispaces, Weebly or a Google Site. It can also be as easy as using a messaging tool to send messages, links to resources and be available for students. In my classes, we have used Celly for the past few years, but I am also using Bloomz (for parent-teacher communication) and Remind with my STEAM Emerging Technologies Course, to showcase student work and teach the students some new ways to communicate.
There are several other options available, depending on your needs and the level you teach. One reminder is be sure to find out what kind of technology is available to the students, to make sure they have access to these resources when they need them.
What are some ways to learn about our students?
One example is to perhaps create a collaborative Google Presentation, or use another digital tool for students to create a presentation in which they share information about themselves. Each student can contribute by adding in some fun facts, share things they did over the summer, or a weekend, or anything that might help the class to learn about who each person is and what they bring to the classroom. I did this with my Spanish IV students and it was fun to see each student’s summer experience represented. The best way to do this can also depend on what grade level you teach and even the content area. But there are a lot of options available for learning about each other and having some fun in the process.
My personal goal at the start of this school year was to learn more about my students and help everyone feel comfortable in my classroom. I used some fun icebreaker games, a great game of Bingo, we shared stories, created a collaborative presentation about our summer vacations, and it has definitely helped the students to learn about each other and for me to learn about them. Our classroom culture is developing and each day brings new surprises and new learning opportunities.
So what are you going to try tomorrow? Think of something fun to do during class like playing a quick game, even using a game to have students play on teams like Kahoot or Quizlet Live, will help to build those relationships, collaboration skills and some fun in the process.
About the Author
I am proud to be involved in several communities including being a Common Sense Media Educator, Amazon Inspire Educator, WeVideo Ambassador, Edmodo Certified Trainer, Nearpod Certified Educator and PioNear, TES Ambassador and ambassador for several other networks. I enjoy blogging and finding new learning opportunities to benefit my students.
You can connect with me on Twitter @rdene915