Education Blog by DUO Inspirations Offers Ways to Get to Know Your Students in the Beginning of the School Year
How are you? Since it is at or near the beginning of the school year, depending where you live, I thought it would be a nice idea to talk about ways to get to know your students better. As a former teacher, I think it is important to get to know your students as quickly as you can. Knowing your students’ likes, dislikes, learning styles, hobbies, goals, strengths, weaknesses, and such will make your job as teacher quite a bit easier.
So, whether you are homeschooling one or two children or teaching a complete classroom full of students, I invite you to ask your students to write something that will help you get to know them better. Even if you think you know the students quite well, it is often good to start with a baseline or two double check strengths weaknesses, and other points to get a baseline for the year and to ensure that nothing has changed drastically.
You may choose to do this in a variety of ways. Maybe you would rather compose a questionnaire to ask each student about his or her likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, hobbies, learning styles, and such. In that way, students can write short answers. You may want to choose one focal question at a time and have students write the answer in a journal. Maybe make the assignment be more of a short story or short essay.
Some of you may be thinking that a child might not be able to answer questions about his or her learning style, strengths, or weaknesses. However, I think you would be surprised. I think children have opinions and can voice more than we give them credit for in many instances. Some students may not know how to voice or write what they mean, but that is okay. You will never know until you try.
When asking about things such as learning style, bring the question down to their level, whatever that might be. They may not understand what learning style means. Many adults don’t know the meaning of learning style. However, you can phrase the question something like, “What was your favorite learning activity last year and why?” Ask students to describe the activity with as much detail as possible.
This can be modified for kindergarteners or other students who do write so well yet. For example, you can give each student three Popsicle sticks: one with a smiley face, one with a sad face, and one with a straight or neutral face. Then, you can the class to show a face for how they like or dislike a variety of learning activities. Be specific, such as “teacher reading aloud to the class”, “you reading aloud”, “silent reading of a book of your choice”, “written word sorts”, “physical word sorts (sorting words by moving cards around)”, “singing a chant or rhyme to remember a math fact”, “going on a nature walk to count how many different kinds of flowers you see”, “conducting an experiment to see what floats and what sinks”, etc. Don’t stop with pure academic topics. Ask about music activities, art activities, sports activities, socializing activities, guidance class activities, etc.
If you are doing something like this where you ask the questions verbally, it might be a good idea to list the questions and the students down ahead of time and note which face each students show. In that way, you can look at it later and establish some basic likes, dislikes, and learning styles information for each student. It might not be an ironclad way of doing it, but it should give you a general idea or at least some information for most students.
With older students, it might be best to come together as a class and talk about different learning activities. Help the students to brainstorm various learning activities to get their brains thinking and on topic. Then, ask students about their favorite learning activities and why they like them.
Another way to get to know your students is in the first few weeks of school ask questions as part of your morning meeting. You can use it as part of a discussion on voting or chart making. Ask students to vote on whether they like math or reading better, social studies or science better, speaking in front of the class or writing better, art or gym better, etc. You can simply ask students to vote together, simply say in turn by going around in a circle, or maybe toss a beanbag back and forth to each other and when each student gets the beanbag, say “Good morning. I like ______ better than ________. What do you like?” and then pass the beanbag to someone else.
Some students may “balk” and feel that these are “stupid questions”. Some may find it difficult to answer the questions in the way you are asking, especially if it means doing it in a way that doesn’t match their particular learning style. I find that it often helps if you say something like, “Some of you might think these are silly questions. However, these questions will help me to know you better and will help me know how to teach you better. You may even find that by knowing your answers to these questions, I can make our time together a little more fun than if I didn’t know your answers.”
Students, even young students, like to know there is a purpose for doing an activity and it isn’t just busy work. They may not be able to verbalize it, but I believe that they want to know that their time isn’t being wasted on “stupid stuff” just like we do.
If you like this post, I have another get to know your students post. You can read it here.
Now, it is your turn.
What do you do to get to know your students in the beginning of the school year? Please, share to give the rest of us some new ideas.
The beginning of the school year is a good time to start thinking about supplies, resources, and support you might need for this school year. Check out what DUO Inspirations has to offer in education. Please, let me know if there is anything else you might need. I enjoy helping others teach and learn.
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