Can you believe we only have 22 more school days until the end of the year? It is amazing how quickly a school year can come to a conclusion. During these final days it is easy for teachers and students to forget what is truly important due to end of the year parties, paperwork, field trips, assemblies, fundraisers, etc… you get the idea! We are busy this time of year. With that said, we still need to finish strong and focus on the truly important aspects of learning:
Building relationships that support a culture of learning, while motivating students to be excited to continue learning during the summer and next school year!
Below is a list of 10 relationship building ideas that will support a great finish to the school year. We have 22 days to make a positive difference in a child’s life… enjoy each one of them!
1. Morning Circle Time (reflecting on the year) – Many of our teachers have morning meetings to start the school day. Creating a morning meeting, allowing for students to learn about each other beyond school life, builds a classroom community of genuine respect and rapport. Daily questions can focus on student backgrounds, culture, interests, events of the weekend, favorite foods/music/movies/games, special events, etc. Becoming familiar with each other on a deeper level will support student self-awareness and acceptance of differences, which will decrease the likelihood of relationship issues during the school year. During the last 22 days of school you can utilize this time to reflect on learning from the school year. Daily questions can focus on favorite experiences, field trips, project based learning activities, individual/class accomplishment or anything that was unique to your classroom. You can even create a top 10 list of learning activities for the summer, reflecting on the importance of finishing strong and continuing learning during the summer.
2. Classroom Motto (finish the year strong) – One teacher at our school starts the day by reciting the classroom motto. He tells the students to push the button on their desk and all student proudly recites together, “feel good about yourself!” Students truly feel good about themselves… not because they say it… because of the sustained teaching that goes along with saying it, creating a community of students who feel good about themselves. His students feel good about: being a good classmate/friend, the effort they put into an assignment, learning new vocabulary words, solving problems on their own, being a good son/daughter/sibling, improving their writing skills, understanding their target learning, etc. It works because it is a consistent approach implemented with empathy and support.
3. The Unlikely Student (extremely important to connect with these students as much as possible during the final few weeks) – It is “easy to connect” with students who demand your attention due to an outgoing personality, academic needs, or behavioral problems. Something to consider, write one student’s name in your plan book each day (those who do not demand your time). Make sure you are connecting with that child throughout the day by noticing their effort: “Wow! Johnny did a great job on the writing assignment because he added exceptional detail”… and share those accolades with the class. Notice things that go beyond school life: new shoes/shirt/haircut, asking about weekend, sporting event, video game, recess, family, etc. It is important that you have a plan to connect, because if you don’t… the “easy to connect” students will demand that time and the “unlikely” student will not be noticed.
4. Student Inventory – Look for the uniqueness of each child – Did something happen during the school year that sparked a new interest? Revisit the student inventory that students provided you throughout the year. Did anything change? Student inventory example is below:
· What do you like to do outside of school?
· What is your favorite season?
· List 2 of your favorite foods.
· List 3 games you like to play.
· What is your favorite animal, color, sport?
· List your favorite type of music.
· Do you like to read? What type of books do you like?
· List 3 movies you like to watch.
· Who do you like to play with/why? Friend, parents, grandparents, sister, brother, other.
· What is your favorite part of the school day?
· What is your least favorite part of the school day?
· What is your favorite special/subject?
Higher level inventory questions:
· What are your dreams?
· What do you want to be when you grow up?
· Who would you consider to be your hero and why?
· If you had unlimited money and could only use it to help people… who would you help and why?
It will be fun for you and your students to see how they have changed or stayed the same over the school year!
5. Positive Proximity – Greet your students each morning with a smile and a friendly hello. Seems simple because it is! It is also much better than asking “do you have your homework?” Be present during independent work, supporting students and noticing their efforts throughout the day. It is even ok to stop by the cafeteria (gym is where we eat lunch) or even shoot a basket or two during recess, positive proximity doesn't need to stop in the classroom. The extra 2-3 minutes of positive proximity outside your classroom will enhance the community feeling that you are establishing in your classroom.
6. Active Listening (It is easy to forget about this during these busy final days) – When we are busy it is easy to send students on their way with a quick response, knowing that you would give a better response if you had the time... we do this as parents too! Next time try saying this: “Your question/need/etc. is really important to me and you deserve more time than I can give right now… can you hold on for a few minutes/after lunch/until tomorrow/etc. and I will give you the attention you deserve.” If you say this with empathy, the child will usually feel validated and will (most likely) wait for your attention… sometimes it gives them time to problem solve on their own. Obviously, don't use this approach if there is an emergency or safety issues.
7. Tone of Voice – Be aware of tone, volume and cadence when teaching and managing your classroom. Use a softer delivery when managing behaviors and classroom procedures, planning and using nonverbal cues. Use voice fluctuation, storytelling (instead of lecturing), and suspense during your classroom discussions. Students will love it! I have been in a lot of classroom where I didn’t want to leave because the tone was so engaging. Your voice can set the relationship tone (positively or negatively) within a classroom. Charlie Brown’s teachers were funny but I don’t think they were building any relationships with their tone of voice.
8. “I noticed” notes - How it works: Simply place post-it notes on student’s desk when they least expect it!
I noticed you finished your project today… nice work with great detail!
I noticed you are being a good friend to Johnny… you are kind!
I noticed you helping Sally with her math at lunch… you are a good friend!
I noticed you put great voice in your writing today… nice focus on our target learning!
I noticed you being a good listener… you rock!
I noticed you asking for help on your assignment… way to take charge of your learning!
I noticed you using "active listening" strategies with Sally during turn and talk… keep it up!
You get the idea! I wouldn’t walk around the room giving “I noticed” notes all day… it could decrease the value. Use it sparingly, maybe three to five per day and keep track, making sure you are noticing everyone over time. This also works well with number three from above - The Unlikely Student. I love this strategy because it provides encouragement and accolades to support a positive relationship between you and your students. It will also teach students to self-regulate their behaviors, assuming responsibility to academic and social learning. Students will love it and so will you!
9. Humor – It is ok to laugh, smile, and tell an appropriate joke from time to time. Children want to see us having fun during the final couple of weeks! A morning joke can go a long way to support positive feelings. We have children telling Friday jokes on the morning announcements, it’s a lot of fun!
Q: What did the math book say to the other math book?
A: I have a lot of problems!
I love a good joke and so will your students!
10. Closure to the day and year – Facilitate a reflection discussion at the end of each day, showcasing the academic and social learning that took place. Give accolades to individuals for positive effort and remember the happy and/or humorous moments during the day… maybe even tell your corny joke again. Set goals for tomorrow and end the day by saying “be kind to one another,” supporting and modeling the positive feelings you are establishing within your classroom. Make this a consistent conclusion to your day and they will be eager to return in the morning.
Relationship building is the most important thing we can do for learning. Please add a comment, highlighting your relationship building ideas so that we can learn together!
Remember to finish strong! We have 22 days to make a positive difference in a child’s life… enjoy each one of them!