Building strong connections with your students
Welcome back, my fellow superheroes! I hope the classroom ideas I provided in my previous post were helpful in getting the new school year off to a great start. While my students and I have enjoyed making playlists and pictures for the classroom, I am excited to connect with them on a deeper level. Providing opportunities for them to express themselves not only boosts engagement, but also helps me form a deeper understanding of their individual personalities and needs. Below are some activities that I use every year to enhance teacher-student relationships within my classroom.
Classroom Scavenger Hunt
As I mentioned in my previous post, building safe and welcoming classrooms is crucial for creating effective learning environments, and so I start class with a Classroom Scavenger Hunt activity similar to this one (shout-out to my fellow STEM teacher for this idea). My students are given four sticky notes and a pen, and they are instructed to write their preferred names on each sticky note. From there, I provide them with descriptions of four items they need to find such as an item that starts with the first letter of their name or an item that inspires/motivates them. Once they find the item, they place their sticky note on it. This is a fun warm-up that requires minimal prep, but has big results as it helps my students become more comfortable in the classroom.
Getting to Know You Activity
This next activity has been adapted from fellow teacher, Laura Randazzo. I modified the activity to better fit my seniors, but you can check out the original version here. This activity requires a little bit of prep, but the results are well worth it. The students are instructed to number seven sticky notes and then answer a prompt that corresponds to the number on the sticky note. From there, the students split into 7 groups and complete the timed rotations. You can find step-by-step instructions for the modified version here.
There are many different benefits to running this activity in your classroom. First, students can see common responses which is great for reminding students that they are not alone. Also, this provides a low-risk way of sharing their areas of growth, needs, and goals without feeling judged. The last part of the activity is especially important for nurturing strong teacher-student bonds. Students have the opportunity to reflect and share what the main takeaway should be for the teachers. This is a powerful task as it not only helps students feel seen and heard, but it also guides the teachers on how to best support their students. Each student matters, and it is vital for them to feel like they do.
Student Collages (+ 2 truths and a lie)
This last activity is a student and teacher favorite! All of the students across the grade level create collages to express themselves and share pictures of their friends, families, and pets. They also practice their poker faces and compete to see if they can stump their teachers and classmates with a game of 2 truths and a lie. I highly encourage teachers to participate so your students can learn more about you, too. Creating student collages are a great way to build community, share some laughs, and find ways to connect through stories. Check out my collage for some inspiration.
Building welcoming classrooms and deep connections with my students not only increases engagement, but also fuels my passion for teaching. My next post will explore ways in which we, as teachers, can empower our students, and so stay tuned!
About the author
Ashley Burkart is a Senior STEM Teacher at Bioscience High School in Phoenix. STEM research was her first passion as she holds a Masters in Biomedical Science from Midwestern University. When she isn’t teaching tomorrow’s leaders, she is either hanging out with her dogs, Raven and Bailey, or hiking the beautiful mountains of Arizona.