It is essential that we build a strong foundational relationship with students from the very first day of school. This must be done before we dive into curriculum. In order to build these profound relationships, our students must know that we care about them to establish trust among one another. Fostering strong relationships with your students can begin on Day 1 and build from there!
1. Share Your “About Me” With Your Students
One of the most common first day activities in any classroom includes students sharing all about their lives with one another. Their favorite color, favorite food, favorite book…the list goes on! Look anywhere online and you will find multiple ice-breaker activities for students to get to know their classmates better within the first week of school.
Although I do think that is very important, I also think taking some time to share about YOUR life as their teacher is also necessary! You can do this in a variety of ways, but no need to over complicate it. I make a small Powerpoint presentation where I share roughly 7 slides filled with interesting facts and pictures about me and my family! Students love to know my dog’s name, my favorite candy, and learn that I can juggle!
2. Find Something in Common With Your Students
Although most people enjoy talking about themselves to others, it can sometimes be difficult for students to think on the fly when they don’t know people very well. Instead of just assigning one quick “About Me” worksheet to your students, give them some time to really think about what makes them unique!
I always like to do an Interactive Notebook (INB) activity called “Me At a Glance” in order to get to know my students better at the beginning of every school year. I tell them the assignment on Monday and they have the entire week to think about and complete it to turn in on Friday. In this activity, I ask them to share 4-5 interesting things about them. It can be their hobbies, their favorite sports team, a favorite vacation spot, etc. The rule is that they must illustrate their 4 -5 facts about them instead of just writing them out. They can draw or print pictures of their information all while having an opportunity to be creative at the same time.
I absolutely LOVE this activity because it allows me right off the bat to see who my artistic students are and see what we have in common! I ask students questions about what they drew and we connect on SO many different levels about things I never would have known about them had I not asked in this assignment.
3. Have Fun by Incorporating Humor Into Your Lessons
Yes, as teachers our job is to educate our students, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun while doing so! Strong relationships with your students can be built within your classroom when you share real life experiences. This helps students realize that you are human too and make mistakes just like everyone else.
For example, just today I was passing out a reading passage for my students to complete and I accidentally gave one of my students the answer key instead of a blank copy (Lesson learned to always write “KEY” at the top of the front page). Rather than making a big deal out of it, I just said, “Oops! Just pretend you didn’t see that!” and all of the students laughed. Sure, I was a little embarrassed but my students got a good chuckle out of it so it was okay.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and make jokes to help your students feel more comfortable within your class. Show that cheesy science video of Bill Nye the science guy if that’s what it takes to get your students to laugh and remember the difference between Kinetic and Potential Energy.
4. Be Interested in Their Lives Outside of School
It is important for our students know that we are “more than just their teacher”. We are their supporter and encourager. I don’t know about you, but once I have taught a student, they become “mine” and I love seeing updates of them succeeding in life!
One of the quickest ways to foster a strong relationship with your students is to get involved in their extra-curricular activities. That can look different for so many people! You might be able to coach a sport they participate in after school, you might be able to attend one of their games, or you might just ask them in class how their game went the night before. Just know that which ever option you choose, your students will know that you care for them! They will appreciate you taking the time to ask and will remember that in the future.
No matter whether you are a first year teacher or a veteran teacher, keep in mind that building those strong relationships is what matters the most! Want to read more? Check out this post to learn about the KEY to building student relationships.
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