For school age teachers, we are one month in and we are getting to know our students. Some students we tend to know pretty well now. There are those that stand out because of behavioural concerns or those who love to talk and answer questions. Getting to know quieter students can often be challenge. Ways to engage and build relationships with these students can include:
Introductory Get to Know You Activities
Introducing yourself, sharing your likes and dislikes, introducing the person next to you are all common ways to get to know students and to allow them to get to know each other.
This All About Me Book has five accordion pages and a front cover they can decorate to look like themselves. Exploring what students have in common allows them to see similarities with people they may not have considered talking to before.
We may have already completed this style of activity but finding opportunities during the year to reconnect through collaborative projects can help to further consolidate relationships and build confidence.
Show and Tell
Yes, this has been around forever but it does give an opportunity to meaningfully communicate and for the audience to practice good listening skills. Alternatives can be to vary the theme, asking the students to bring in a particular item and prepare to talk about why they have chosen it or why it is important to them.
Similar to show and tell, sharing centres facilitate question and answer building. Each centre has a different object or collection and while students are at the centre they formulate questions and try to answer each other’s questions. Questions they don’t know the answer to can be researched.
Talk! Listen! Learn! has a rich array of miniature objects and props and will coax even the most reluctant students to talk, ask questions and extend their language skills. Objects have been carefully chosen to expand children’s vocabulary with rich details, and improve their usage of basic semantic and syntactic English structures.
These are a wonderful resource to encourage even the quietest of students. Photos can be collected from magazines or from students. These Talk About! How We Feel photo cards that contain photos of children looking: happy, angry, sad, surprised, confused, frightened, disgusted and bored. Activities such as asking when the students feel these emotions can be differentiated depending on the student’s capabilities. Writing tasks for the older students can be a safe way to communicate with their teacher knowing it will not be shared.
Learning about a student’s past experiences can give you great insights into what is important to them and the experiences they are bringing to school. Understanding why a student crawls under a table when a bell rings or the fire alarm sounds, helps an educator to teach the student that a bell does not always mean they are in danger. Understanding why a student refuses to share their learning materials can help an educator to teach that student to share respectfully, with the knowledge that they will get their materials back again. We don’t always get a lot of background information on our students but key triggers for trauma recollection or sensitivities can help us to best support students.
Having a common practice of asking students to talk to a partner about a learning concept or their questions can be less threatening than talking in front of a whole class.
The WhisperPhone Duet is an acoustical telephone that enhances student-to-student and teacher-to-student reading activities, it also keeps classrooms quieter by creating an acoustically-clear connection between two readers.
When students are confident talking to one person, changing up the groupings can build confidence as they learn to talk to new peers.
Having a job to do and a place in the classroom gives shyer students an opportunity to interact in a non-threatening way. Handing out supplies or collecting the paper are great ways to encourage students to take on an important role and be part of the class.
A Safe and Inclusive Classroom
Having clear expectations and ensuring students respect each other helps to make a safe environment. Making a point of talking to each student every day, even if it is only to say “well done for…” can help build relationships.
Some students take a long time to open up and trust us and for that, we must be willing to wait. Some students need to know they can be themselves without fear of judgement and the safe inclusive environment of your classroom will win them over… when they are ready.