A great place to start when building relationships with students is to find out about their interests, passions, inquiries, and habits. Doing so gives us some the intel to serve students’ individual and collective needs. Some of the ways we get to know students—both in the beginning of the year AND across the year—include:
Conferring 1:1 with students
Listening in and joining in small group learning opportunities
Giving students the opportunity to turn and talk during whole group learning
Playing get-to-know-you games and launching activities
Surveying students in ways that give students the opportunity to share about themselves in unique and exciting ways is a high leverage move for building relationships and getting to know students. In collaboration with Barry Hoonan —my colleague, friend, and co-author—we worked to re-design new ways of surveying kiddos so that we could plan instruction and learning opportunities in unique ways.
Give students a copy of the Tell Us Your Thoughts About template.
Explain that students should read the question stems and select the response [1-5] that best matches their thoughts and feelings.
Remind students that they can select a response that is in the middle of 2 different responses [Example—marking the line between 5 and 4].
Remind students that if they want to elaborate on their responses, they can use the boxes or space around the outside edges to add additional information.
Give students 5-10 minutes to jot down their answers. Nudge: While students are filling out their surveys, fill one out about yourself too.
To lift the learning across the classroom, share a few ideas from your survey with the whole class. This gives students an opportunity to get to know you AND serves as a model for how the survey answers can be shared.
Give students an opportunity to share their survey answers with others. Break students into pairs or Thought Partners. After pairs or Thought Partners have had a chance to share, turn Thought Partners into Groups of Four to do another round of sharing. For more about Thought Partners to Groups of Four, see pages 60-62 in What Are You Grouping For?, Grades 3-8: How to Guide Small Groups Based on Readers—Not the Book.
As students share, listen in [or kidwatch] so that you get to know students as they are getting to know their peers.