Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Connecting with Your Class: Steps to Increase Student Engagement


If there is one thing that will help you be a more effective teacher, it is making connections with your students. Below we have outlined our top 10 ways that we can connect with our class. They are easy to implement and will result in your students performing better for you in all subject areas.

1. Listen!
Probably the most important thing you can do every day is just listen to your students. They have so much to share and just taking a few seconds to listen to their stories will make all the difference. With the hustle and bustle that we all face on a daily basis, this can seem like it is hard to accomplish. But we must, as educators, connect with our students. Listening is the first step in establishing a trusting relationship with your class.

2. Greet Every Day
When the students arrive in the hallways in the morning it is important to be visual outside your classroom door. You set the tone for your class every day. By smiling and greeting each child by name, you are recognizing that they are important and that you are glad that they are at school. It can also be a red flag as to why a child is having a rough start. You can find that out early on, and be able to address it before it balloons into a bigger issue during the school day. Plus, the kids love it and will often stop to talk to you about something that happened. Remember to listen!

3. Class Chant
Every morning after we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we do our class chant. This is a time to bond together as a class and to say statements that you believe in. Here is our class chant.
I am somebody.
I am capable and loveable.
I am teachable.
Therefore, I can learn.
I can do anything when I try.
I will not let others stand in my way of learning.
I am somebody.
I am somebody.
I am somebody!
Students love to do this and remind me if I ever forget. We even have students come back to us from previous years and can recite it back to us. It is a great way to connect with your class and show them that they are somebody!

4. Culturally Responsive Techniques
As educators we know that students learn through various methods. That is why it is so important to not always teach in the same way. Over the past few years, we have realized the importance of incorporating culturally relevant teaching techniques in our classroom. We want ALL of our students to feel included in the learning process. You can find 25 engaging culturally responsive teaching techniques for purchase by clicking here.

5. Interest Inventory
A great way to get to know your students is to hand out an interest inventory.The questions on the inventory are geared at helping you get to know your students better. It is a quick, stress-free handout that you can give to your students and have them complete in under 15 minutes. Click here to download this free resource!

6. Student-Selected Music
Asking students what music they like to listen to is another great way to connect with them. We have students take out a piece of loose leaf paper and write down their favorite musicians and songs. Then, we go through the process of screening them (looking up lyrics on the internet) and compile a class list. There are a few ways to do this. One is to find them on youtube and then just save them to a folder on your account. Another way is to find a Pandora Or Amazon Unlimited Music channel that has clean versions of songs available. We also like to play classical music too. Surprising kids with their songs during work time will sure to be a hit with your class!

7. Class Library
If you want to build reading fluency with your class, have high interest books in your class library. Each year we find out not only the genres of books that students like, but also topics that they would love to read more about. Over the past 10 years we have included books about Minecraft, WWE wrestling, monster trucks, horses, graphic novels, and so much more. The books are easy to find in our library as we have them labeled by interest as well as genre. If we don't have a topic that a student is interested in, we make it a point to either order a few books through Scholastic Book Club or go to our local book store and buy a few.

8. Real-Life Connections
If there is any way you can connect the curriculum to the students' lives it will make it more engaging for them. By doing this, it will also more than likely increase their achievement in the subject as well. Doing project-based learning is a great way to foster interest and self-motivation. Writing is a great area to implement real-life connections. If you are doing an argumentative, or persuasive, essay, have the students write about topics that matter to them. Then make sure that these essays are shared with the appropriate channels (local newspapers, principal, magazines). You would be surprised to see the responses you will get and we have had students' essays published in the local newspaper as well!

9. Star of the Week
Each child deserves to be spotlighted for one week. We have the child create a "Star of the Week" poster (we provide the poster board). On the poster they can include things such as family photos, favorites (food, drink, book, TV shows/movies,...) and any other things that are important to them. They bring the poster to school at the beginning of the week and we have a special place to display it so all kids can see it throughout the week. Then at the end of the week, the student shares his/her spotlight with the class. It is amazing to see the pride they have in doing this. We also take a picture of the child with the spotlight and then email it to the parents as well.

10. Time to Talk
If there was one thing we wish we could do, it would be to give each child 5 minutes of our time each day. It would be great just to meet with them and listen to what they have to say, really dive in and get to know them. But we know the harsh reality of today's rigid teaching environment doesn't allow it. But that doesn't mean that you can't find ways to sneak in a few minutes a day with kids. That morning time when students are arriving at school is key. They want to tell you so much, try and listen. That work time where students are working quietly, kneel down by them and ask how they are doing. That guided reading time when you are meeting with small groups, connect the book to their lives and find out more about each of them. The end of the day wrap up, take time to sit in a circle and share about their days. Just by taking time to allow them to talk about non-school related things will show them that you truly care.

We hope that you can take the time to implement at least a few of the above ideas into your classroom. Connecting with your class truly will increase student engagement!

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