Building Relationships in the Classroom: What To Do in The First Weeks and Beyond!

Huddle

In a previous post by Juile on Relationship Building in the Classroom, we were introduced to the ideas of how important this relationship building can be with students.

You agree with the concept, but are wondering what are some specific ways to build relationships with students as well as student to student relationships.  Here are some which we plan to use in the first few weeks of school, a KEY time to connect with students to build year long positive relationships.

1. Marshmallow Challenge: Simply put, students are randomly placed into groups with a few simple materials: one marshmallow, string, scotch tape and uncooked spaghetti noodles. Students work on team building as they try to construct the tallest free standing structure. See here for more info!

2. Where do I belong? Each student is given a card with a word. Four words fit in each category to make groups. Some words can fit into more than one category, so it really gets the kids thinking. After trying this out, have students find one thing in common outside of the cards (think grade, age, favorite hobby etc) that they all share. See here for more info!

3. Mingle, Mingle. Create get to know you activities that ask students to find another student in the room that matches a statement. Have teachers be a part of the list as well.

4. The Weekend Update: On Mondays, spend 3-4 minutes sharing what happened over your weekend and allow students to share too. We remind students to keep in school appropriate. Great way to connect students as well as continue to prove that teachers have lives too!

5. Student surveys: Give students the chance to share their strengths, weaknesses, goals and fears for the year on a quick student survey. We also add what types of rewards students like.

Building relationships with students are the single best way to enrich your classroom environment for students and teachers. What things do you use in your classroom?

Filling Your Strategy Toolbox

toolbox

Editors Note: This post is written by guest author Aubrey Trimble. The views expressed are her own. 

I have been very fortunate in my role as a Learning Consultant to see some awesome teaching and great classroom strategies that help reach our at-risk and special education students. I would like to share a few that I have found to be very successful in the general education classroom.

Summarizing Technique

In high school, we assume our students understand how to summarize a text, whether a fictional or non-fictional text. When I was teaching in the classroom I found a lot of the students understood what summarizing was, but not exactly how to do it; inevitably, the student would end up re-telling the story.

  • Have students read a text. Before the students read the text, ask the students to write down five to ten (depending on how long the text may be) words that are important to understanding the text.
  • Once all the students have finished, ask the student to write a summary that cannot be any longer than 4-5 sentences and must include all of the words they had previously identified as important.

This strategy allows the student to identify what is important while reading the text and stops the student from re-telling the story because they have to prioritize what are the most important ideas to include.

Teacher/Student Made Book Marks
This is a great strategy for teachers who perhaps are reading a novel that may have a lot of characters, changes in setting, etc. or for a science text that may have vocabulary that will be new to the students. The book mark allows for a “hint sheet” to the important pieces of the text so that the student has access to this information, readily and easily.

  • For a chapter book, create a book mark that outlines the important literary pieces of the text the students must understand in order to understand the book. The book mark can be filled previously before reading or the student can fill it in as they read.
  • For vocabulary purposes, create a book mark with the new vocabulary words on it where, again, they can be filled in previously or the student can fill it out as they go along.
  • For due dates in a chapter book, you can create a book mark with due dates for when chapters need to be read by.

This strategy is helpful because it is a tool all students can use and will have the important pieces of information the students may need to understand the concepts of the text or the text itself in a fun, easy to use book mark.

Test Corrections: What Does the Student Really Know?

This strategy is great because it addresses the information the student does not know so the student can address these issues before  moving forward without gaps in the understanding and potentially getting further behind.

Once the test has been corrected by the teacher, hand the test back out to the student. Have the students identify what questions they did wrong. You can:

  1. Create a t-chart and have the student look for patterns to the questions done incorrectly. For example, in math, are they missing a key step in each problem or on an English test, is the student only struggling with the vocabulary section of the assessment. The t-chart labels would be question type-mistake made.
  2. Have students write a reflection on what type of answers they did wrong and why. The student can also reflect on what steps did they take to prepare for the test and are they happy with the results.
  3. Have students make corrections and then write out why the correct answer is correct and why the answer they chose was incorrect.

This strategy allows you as the teacher to see the patterns of strengths and weaknesses within your students’ abilities and knowledge, as well as allow for the students to identify this. In this, students can begin addressing the areas they may need to strengthen when it comes to test taking, whether that is strengthen their content knowledge, slowing down when testing or using a better study method.

Students Create Test Questions

This is a great strategy because it will allow you to see if you and your students are on the same page when it comes to content coming up on a test. Even our brightest students can perform poorly on a test if they do not study the right material. Students who typically struggle in school, I feel, really struggle with test because they feel like every test has been created to “trick them” and they typically do not prepare for the test by studying sufficiently the days before.

  • Before a test, instead of giving the students a study guide, have the students create a test of their own. Challenge the students to think about what were the important concepts that were the focus throughout the unit and let that information fuel the questions they create.
  • Students have to create the same types of questions that will be found on the test. For example, if you are going to have some multiple choice questions with an essay question at the end, then the students must create the same.

This would be a great opportunity to discuss with students the different types of questions stems teachers use and how the student will see the same stem over and over again. After the students have created the questions, have the students share with the class and discuss what questions “sound” like questions that “may” be on the test and what questions they would not find.

This strategy allows students to put on their teacher “hats” and focus in on the important material that needs to be studied for a test. It also allows the students to see the process the teacher goes through to create a test, which takes some of the mystery out of the question, “What is going to be on the test tomorrow?”

Consider trying out a new strategy this coming year that you haven’t in the past.Have a great start to the school year!

How Important is Relationship Building in the Classroom?

relationship2Think about the people in your life you are closest to. If they asked you to do something for them, even something absurd, would you do it? Why?

How about someone you know but you do not particularly like or who does not seem to care much for you. If he/she asked you for a favor, would you do it? Would you want to?

I believe the same rule applies in the classroom. There are many students who have been brought up to respect authority and follow directions simply because a teacher tells them to, and we are very thankful for these students. These sweet, well-behaved kids deserve all of the love and attention we can give them. However, there are also those few who seem to want to do the opposite of what we ask and may not always be interested in our consequences. This is where relationships come in.

I still remember my education professor at Hope College imparting her wisdom: “Some kids won’t do anything for you… until you build a relationship. Then they’ll do ANYTHING for you!” I have taught in elementary, middle, and high schools, and I believe these words to be true at every level.

Check out the words of one of our most struggling and sometimes verbally inappropriate high school students about a teacher who has taken time and energy to build a relationship with him:

“She makes sure I have my work done or at least am attempting at it. If it was another teacher trying to nag at me about doing something, I would of simply told them off. For some people, it’s really hard to get someone to do something. At least for me, I’m probably the most stubborn and hard-headed in the class so that’s pretty impressive. I’ve been kicked out and suspended from the class before (more than once) but she still was there to help. I’ve improved myself I think because of her. She also happened to be there when I was struggling in life. She asks about why I wasn’t at school and how to help. I’ve also more understood that not all people are bad or wish the worst on you to do bad. Most teachers couldn’t care less about you… she could of chose to be like that, but she didn’t. I appreciate that the most. For her to take extra time from her job and put it elsewhere is a great thing. She could hate me and just say I’ll become the next dropout or screw up my own life but does she? No. If more teachers were as helpful as her, some kids would be able to look forward to going to school.”

Building relationships does not:

  • mean you do not give consequences
  • happen overnight
  • involve being on a “friend level” with students, or that they don’t respect you as authority
  • ever become wasted time

Some specific tips I’ve developed over the years:

  • I try to keep this thought in mind: The 55 minutes in your classroom might be the most attention that student receives all day.
  • Kids like to know we’re human beings. Telling stories or even apologizing for something we did wrong helps build a relationship with them.
  • All students, but especially older or “at risk” students, will want a rationale about why they need to do an assigned task. The more we can honestly explain the necessity of a direction we’ve given, the more the relationship is built and the happier the student will be to complete it.
  • If you’re about ready to give up on a student, realize that probably every other teacher (and maybe even the student’s family) is too. That’s exactly when they need you in their corner the most: not letting them get away with anything, but also not disregarding them as “not worth the time.”
  • Some kids enjoy compliments, but to build relationships with those who don’t, I simply make observations. “Oh wow, you got a haircut!” “You really know these quadratic equations.” “Looks like you got new shoes!” These things still show them you’re noticing them.

In the wise words of my mother in law, “Everyone’s carrying their own cross.” When I’m burdened and stressed, I become less pleasant. What I need in that time is not only for someone to reprimand my behavior but more importantly for them to care about me, listen to me, and ask me if I’m okay. (See next tip)

  • Certain students are best disciplined in private. I have learned to switch my conversation from “Stop acting this way!” to “Are you okay?” Once I listen to the student about anything going on in his or her life that may be affecting their behavior, then we can handle consequences.

By building a relationship with your students, they will love you, be happy about coming to your class, and work for you, even when they don’t feel like it, because they know how much you care!

Some kids won’t do anything for you. Until you build a relationship; Then they’ll do ANYTHING for you.

A Day in the Life of One Resource Teacher

Wearing-Many-Hats-XSmall_png

After my first blog post, entitled, High School Support: Before the Blend I received a great response from an amazing fellow educator and family friend, Don Pata. He wrote,”  I feel that one of the every-day problems that I encounter with special education – regardless of the structure – is that we as classroom teachers don’t really know what happens in the special education classrooms!

Immediately I realized, that this is an ongoing problem in education. We, as educators, often have limited knowledge of what is going on outside of our classroom or department unless we are collaborating on an assignment or project. I don’t think this is anyone’s fault, but is a concern that I have had myself. Obviously, if you teach a content area, one would have an idea of what was going on in my classroom. But, with special education, many people only think of one or two ways in which a teacher in this field works. So, thanks to Don’s comment, I decided I would share about a “typical” day as a high school resource teacher…..although all educators know that “typical” rarely exists!

As I teach in a blended program, I am very blessed to work daily with two other amazing educators; Julie, a fellow resource teacher and Aubrey, a general education learning consultant with experience as a general and special education classroom teacher. We are a great team and we are so lucky to be supported by amazing paraprofessionals as well during the day.

A “typical “Monday class period begins with the “Weekend Update.” We found this to be an important time to connect with the students to hear about what they did over the weekend. Even at the high school level, students want to talk about what they did over the weekend, even if it was simply relaxing or going to the movies. We as the teachers also share out about what we did, and the kids then get to see that we are actually real people as well! After that, we check grades. Every Monday. This time gives students a chance to see how they are doing in all of their classes, and allows us to have one-on-one conversations with students that may be struggling to create a plan to get in missing work, connect with their classroom teachers and access teacher Moodle sites or websites. If students have Ds or Es, this is a time for them to call home to their parents and inform them of their grades. This in itself has been skill building.  Students learn how to have productive conversations with their parents and explain the plans in which they have created to improve their grades. We also have taught some kids how to leave a voice mail. Hey, spontaneous life lessons can be just as effective as planned ones! After the grading process students return to their pods in the classroom, and work with their team leader (a teacher or paraprofessional) to get support through pre-teaching and re-teaching of content from their other classes for the remainder of the hour.

Tuesdays through Fridays run a bit differently. On these days, class begins with a 15-20 minute learning strategy lesson. The most emphasis for these lessons is on organization, test taking strategies, advocating for oneself and personal drive. We ran a BYOD classroom this year, and integrated many types of technology into these lessons. Following the lessons, students  work with their team leaders through pre-teaching and re-teaching of content from their other classes for the remainder of the hour.

Just like general education teachers, I have a planning period or prep hour. During this time,  I work on IEPs, run IEP meetings, meet with ancillary staff (speech pathologists and social workers), check in with my caseload students and/or communicate with parents.  Other days I work with a student from our program studying for upcoming tests or editing a paper. Most of my lesson planning is done with my collaborating teacher outside of the school day.

As a special education teacher, I wear many hats. Some days I feel like a social worker, listening to the struggles students are having inside and out of school. I am cheerleader; helping my students learn that they can be successful; beaming when a student comes into the classroom with a smile on his/her face that they did well on a test we studied for together. Other days, I feel like a mom. Giving advice on life. Being a sounding board. And some days, I wear all of these hats more than once during the day.

I went into the field of special education  because I love working with struggling learners and want to make a difference in their lives while in school as well as beyond.