Use reflective practice to encourage student relationships!
Reflection is part of our practice -- it has to be for us to grow as professionals and for our students to be successful. Reflection is an ongoing process; it happens after each class period, at the end of the day, and even in the evening. Reflecting on instructional practices and our interactions with students is important, and we must use this reflection time to plan for the future.
Oftentimes, reflection starts and ends with relationships. How does what we say and do help our students become confident learners and sharers? While the first few weeks of school are normally busy and chaotic, it’s important to take time to build relationships, and the best way to do this is to foster your students' communication skills.
Talking and technology
There are lots of ways to get students talking to build relationships. Depending on the level you teach, some options might be easier or more feasible than others -- but if you want to learn about your students, it might be as easy as creating a Google form and asking some general questions to get an idea of their interests. Immediately, this can lead to more discussion, some laughs, and a lot of learning about each other.
Another idea is to have students participate in a scavenger hunt. There are many digital tools available, such as Klikalu Player and Social Scavenger. Whether you use a new digital tool or stick with tried-and-true paper activities, creating something that gets all your students involved, connected, and working together will build the engagement and respect needed to sustain positive peer relationships and a positive classroom all year long.
Set up a way to communicate
Teachers want to hear from students. We want students to feel comfortable coming to us for help, asking questions in class, and getting involved in classroom conversations. Unfortunately, many students struggle with speaking out; they become too nervous to answer or feel embarrassed asking a question. To create a feeling of support in the classroom, fostering communication is key. Luckily, many digital tools are available to help build students’ communication skills.
If this sounds like something that could benefit your classroom, try one of the many great messaging tools available: Bloomz, Celly, Voxer, Remind, or any of the dozens of similar apps. Once you feel comfortable with your choice, start thinking about another way you can add to the learning experience in your classroom.
A helpful way to implement these tools is to think about connections -- who am I connecting to whom or what, and why? When students have opportunities to work with technology, having a choice in how they learn, are included in the conversation, and are asked for feedback engages and empowers them within the classroom. Start the conversations and keep them going, and soon your classroom will be filled with confident students.