Tips for building connections with students
The smell of fresh, crisp notebooks. Nervous butterflies. Classroom bulletin boards that rival Pinterest. As schools nationwide welcome students back from summer vacation, administrators, teachers, and others are waiting to meet their new students. While the first couple weeks can be overwhelming, it’s important to start building connections as you attempt to connect new names with new faces. Below, we’ve highlighted a few practical suggestions from our Renaissance Royals™ community to help build connections with students. Take a look!
Grade 2 teacher
“This is my absolute favorite part of teaching! My students become my children by the end of the first month. Here are a few things I do: (1) First, the caboose (last in line) is a boring job, so this student is also my hand holder. I switch jobs once a week, so each week while walking in the hall, I walk with the caboose and we hold hands everywhere we go. They share all of their lives with you by the end of their week, and then they can’t wait to be the caboose next time. (2) Second, we play introduction games every day for the first couple weeks. For example, we throw a beach ball around with different questions on it. Whoever catches the ball answers the question of their choice and shares a story as well. I also am quite proactive. I pop into the first-grade class all throughout the year to tell them how excited I am for them to be mine all mine! I’m a second-grade teacher and the first-grade teacher is a great friend of mine so she loves it. She can also pop in and see her old class anytime she likes. I also think the key to a great relationship with your students is a great relationship with parents. I like to make a wordle collage for parents specific to their kids each Christmas. It’s super special and shows them how invested I am in each students’ life.”
“Building connections with students is so important. Let students know who you are on a personal AND professional level. A bulletin board or poster with photos of you at their age, along with pictures of your family, pets, and of you engaged in hobbies and other ‘cool’ activities is a great place to start. ‘Two Truths and a Fib’ is a fun game, too. You start by sharing two interesting facts or truths about yourself and one that’s made up. Students have to decide which are true and which is a fib. Then, of course, they want to hear a little bit about the real facts. Have students then do the same. If time is an issue, you could group students for this. It is a lot of fun, gets students talking, and allows you and the students to see what you have in common. In addition, I always give students a survey to fill out, which I refer to all year long.”
Grade 4 teacher
“I do an open-ended project the first day of school, such as using the available supplies and building something powered by wind. Watching the students transition from stunned silence to engaged teams teaches me a great deal about each individual. I see who are the natural leaders, who are the quiet thinkers, and who are the creative risk-takers. We use the shared experience as the foundation for our class relationships.”
“I give students a safe place to share and be heard or just to be quiet and listen. I really get to know them by paying attention to what they say, what they don’t say, their actions, their clothes or lack of, their scrapes and bruises (and how they got there). I also let them ask me questions about myself so that I am real enough to them that they feel they can trust me to teach and care about them.”
Grade 4 teacher
“The first week of school, I give my students an ‘All About You’ survey to complete by making a list of their favorites. Then I have them use that list to write a paragraph about themselves and what they want me to know about them. This year, my classroom theme is going to be ‘Starbooks’/coffee with books, so I am going to have them complete an assignment called ‘espresso yourself’ by writing descriptive sentences about themselves. I also sit with my class during lunch and get to know them. Eating lunch with my students has been one of the best ways to get to know them because lunch time is relaxed and fun without having to worry about doing work.”
Grade 7 teacher
“Because I don’t resemble my students, and my outside life doesn’t resemble theirs, I will do just about anything to build relationships with my students. I think it is so important to take an interest in what they are doing outside of school. If they play sports, I ask them for their schedules so (hopefully) I can make a game or two! I like to know what they like to do outside of school. I also make sure they know about my life. My students and I are a team. To be successful, I have to trust them and they have to trust me! I talk with my students, and I notice what’s going on. I can tell if they are having a bad day and need to talk, and I can pull them out to speak with them and let them know I am here for them. I also make sure I notice things about them. Maybe they just went and got their hair or nails done. I make sure I compliment them. They need to feel good about themselves, and I want to encourage a positive relationship with them!”
Building relationships takes time. From making small talk with students while walking to class to attending one of their games, there are a ton of great ways to build connections. Looking for more ideas? Join Renaissance Royals, the exclusive community for Renaissance educators, to engage in discussions with other educators nationwide, access resources, and share best practices—plus much more!