Building Relationships: The Power of One Word

There’s real power in one word responses—especially when those one words are shared with others. What’s even better is when we’ve created a culture of sharing that leads to conversation and an appreciation of who we are individually and collectively. As I’ve shared before, positive relationships foster:

  • Trust between students and teachers

  • increased student motivation and engagement

  • Self-efficacy

  • An asset-based culture, focused on the power of “WE”

  • Better understanding of what students need, leading to improved academic achievement

There are lots of ways to build relationships—the important thing is to do it regularly and to use the intel you get from the experiences to foster relationships across a learning community and to fuel instructional decisions. In addition, this is a great opportunity to launch into small, flexible groups. #whatareyougroupingfor


  1. Give students the One Word template and explain the directions as listed at the top of the page. Reminder: Modify the directions as needed.

  2. To lift the learning across the classroom, pick 2 stems, answer them in reference to yourself, and model your thinking in front of students.

  3. Give students 5-10 minutes to jot down their answers.

  4. Divide students into small groups and give them an opportunity to share. There is no one right way to divide students into small groups, this instructional decision is based on the amount of time you have to devote to this activity and your intended take-aways [hopes/goals] for this work. Here are a few ideas::

    • Share part or all of the whole grid with the same small group.

    • Share responses in rows 1 and 2 with a partner. Then, switch up the groups and share responses in row 3 with a new group—this time a trio. Then, switch up the groups again and share responses in row 4 with a new group—this time 4-6 people in the small group.

  5. Encourage students to turn these one word shares into conversation starters. For example, if someone shares that their favorite vegetable is green beans, remind students that they can add on by then sharing their favorite vegetable [even if they didn’t write that on their grid] or they can ask their group member[s] what their least favorite vegetables are. Note: As the facilitator of learning—be ready for some JOY—these noisy, laughter-filled conversations will most likely make your day!

  6. As students share, listen in [or kidwatch] so that you get to know students as they are getting to know their peers.

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  • If students are sharing and it’s taking longer than you expected—embrace it by giving students the opportunity to share multiple times across several days.

  • If you are an Administrator or Instructional Coach—this works for building relationships with and among colleagues, too. This is great for PLC’s, Team Meetings, Staff Meetings, PD/Workshops, etc. Change up the questions to fit your interests or needs.