Connecting with students is without a doubt one of the most important aspects to a successful year. It’s certainly not a disputed topic, and teachers are well aware of the benefits of this, but the question to ask is how do teachers go about connecting with their students in ways that produce a great classroom culture?
In a hurry?
Get the Distilled Guide Here:
What are some of the Challenges of Connecting with Students?
Before we dive in and give you some great tools to connect with your students, let’s consider for a moment some of the challenges that you might face whilst trying to build relationships.
Right from the start this will mean that teachers will have to dig deep to find the good in each of their students, even those that have either previously been labeled as a ‘problem’ child or have been seen in a negative light. This can be hard, but it’s important to remember that everyone has positive characteristics and you’ll need to look for them. These positive characteristics can often be overlooked.
In order to do this, you’ll need to focus your attention on finding those positives and look for talent, intellect, skill or even excellence in some areas of their lives. It’s in there, it just needs to be found and nurtured.
Here are our top 5 easy ways to connect with your students.
How to Connect with Your Students
The First Five Minutes
Nicholas Provenzano has written extensively about the First Five Minutes (FFM) and believes that this is a critical way to engage and connect with students.
As he said in an article on The Nerdy Teacher, “I went to one of many meetings that teachers go to and I was just struck by something. What meetings start exactly on time discussing the business at hand? The first five minutes or so is all pleasantries. As adults, we like to talk and catch up on things going on in our lives. Depending on the meeting, some people might not have seen each other for days or weeks. Those five minutes are crucial to catch up, settle down and get in the right frame of mind for that meeting.
Why do we treat students differently? Some of these students haven’t seen each other since the day before. I have found that by letting these students have these first five minutes has actually increased the work we get done. I walk around the room and talk with the students. Those five minutes allow me to engage and personally tell each table what we will be doing. I take attendance as I walk around and talk to the students. By the time that five minute catchup period ends, the students are ready to go.
I have learned so much about my students from talking with them and sharing ideas. These five minutes have become a fun part of my class and my kids like the talk time as well. Those connections I have made during those five minutes have made a lasting impact on student engagement and relationships. It is something I really encourage all teachers to look at implementing in their class.”
This is a fantastic way to connect with your students and doesn’t take up too much of your precious time that you have in your classroom each day.
Conduct an Interview
If you think about it, teachers often spend a lot of time talking to other teachers about students as well as parents, but how often do they actually land up really speaking to their students? Not much time at all. This strategy is pretty easy to follow, although it does take up some time, but you will most certainly reap the rewards as you build stronger connections. Treat the conversation as if you’re a journalist interviewing an important person…what do they like, what don’t they like, what are their interests, what is their family like, who are their friends, what extracurricular activities do they do and any other questions you can think of. Once you’ve ‘interviewed’ them take notes of the important information that you’ve gleaned and use it in all your interactions with them. If you know that they’re interested in mythology, as an example, try and find information about the subject for them and hand it over. They’ll love you for it and it will without a doubt build stronger bonds.
Let Students be the Center of Attention
Let your students do the talking! Yes you read right. Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a back seat and let your students engage in group discussions. They can share information about themselves in a nonthreatening environment, and they can share whatever they feel comfortable with. If they prefer, you can put them into groups and let them discuss their interests amongst themselves while you walk around the class and learn as much as you can about them both inside and outside of school.
These moments provide excellent opportunities to learn about them. Once they’ve finished their discussions, devise a debate that they need to take part in where they get to choose the subject matter based on shared interests. They’ll then be able to form their opinion on the subject matter, listen to what others have to say and build up their arguments. The best part about this activity is that it gives students some form of authority in the classroom and allows them to have a voice. You will learn so much from this exercise.
Attend Extra-Curricular Activities
This one probably takes the most amount of time, but could have the biggest impact on getting to know your students. You’ll be able to learn so much about them when attending their extra-curricular activities. You’ll be amazed at how much they will appreciate your efforts to take the time out of your busy day and focus on them and them alone. If you’ve been struggling with a particular student this just might be your answer to build those bonds.
Another bonus to taking this approach is that you can build better relationships with their parents in an informal setting and as such you’ll be able to glean even more information about them. By doing this you’ll be able to work together as a team to get the most out of their kids during the year. If parents believe that their child’s teacher has a vested interest in them, they will feel more comfortable talking to you and working with you and not against you.
Yes as simple as it sounds, this is a surefire way to connect with your students. A smile will go a long way in building emotional connections. When you’re taking attendance at the beginning of the day, smile at each student’s name that you call out. Then wait for them to smile back. This is a quick and easy way to build those lasting connections that are so important for classroom success!
Those are our top 5 easy ways to connect with your students. Do you have other tips to share about connecting with your students in the classroom? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.