Making a Difference in the Classroom: Strategies that Connect with Students

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It's a simple act to show that the students matter. Another great reason to attend these events is to connect with family. I love interacting with my students' parents in an informal setting.

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It's nice way to keep in touch and have conversations about their child. We can share information about class issues and home issues, and then start working together. Parents feel more comfortable talking with teachers they feel are invested in their child's success.

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Attending a field hockey game at on a Wednesday night is one way to show investment. Little acts like appearing at extracurricular events are a sure way to show students and parents that you are involved. Something I started doing more recently has really paid off when it comes to connecting with my students. I hold regular office hours before school starts. I promise all of my students that I will be available from AM until the seven-minute bell rings if they want to come and talk, use an iPad to study, or just relax and draw on the desks which are covered in IdeaPaint , turning them into dry erase surfaces.

I tell kids they can email me to schedule an appointment, pop in and schedule one for the next day or just stop by the room. I was surprised at how many students take advantage of the open door. Even better, I have students that I no longer teach stop in and catch up. My open office hours have turned into a nice place for kids to come before classes start and just talk about what's going on in their lives.


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Sometimes it's typical high school stuff that can pass in a day or so, but sometimes students express fears about their future, or they're battling depression and fear being medicated for the rest of their lives. The conversations can range from deep and sad to light and goofy. For the students that stop by, I know it means the world to them to have an adult that will listen and be there when they need it.

I give up time in the morning, but I gain important connections with my students that allow me to not only help them with their problems, but also engage them in the classroom. These three things are very different from each other and require different amounts of effort to implement. It has taken me over 12 years of teaching to put them all into place.

I hope my son has teachers that are willing to listen to him complain about what a pain I'm being. Get the best of Edutopia in your inbox each week. Attending Extra-Curricular Activities This is something I have dedicated myself to doing since I started teaching -- and it's not easy. Be Available Something I started doing more recently has really paid off when it comes to connecting with my students. A walking tour should also focus on a few themes and ask students to highlight neighborhood places they find meaningful in relation to a relevant social issue.

Student age and physical limitations should be taken into consideration when planning a walking tour. Without saying a word, classrooms send messages about diversity, relationship building, communication and the roles of teachers and students. Consider the different messages sent by these two classrooms:. Desks are arranged in a U shape.

The Big List of Bloom's Taxonomy Question Stems

On the wall is a poster of U. Kennedy and Albert Einstein. Students are working quietly on an independent assignment. Desks are arranged in clusters of four with students facing one another. Students are working with their table-mates on a group project.

Classroom setup should be student centered. Specifics will vary from teacher to teacher and class to class, but common elements include these:. Thoughtful classroom setup and structure supports two of the four anti-bias domains: Diversity and Justice. A welcoming class space sets the tone for participatory engagement. Expectations and practices that honor diverse backgrounds also create a more just and equitable educational experience.

The audit also includes considering the types of interactions that teachers have with students and that students have with one another. Many daily tasks can be done by students who, given the opportunity, may create new and interesting ways to approach them. Real-world lessons related to work and responsibility can be reinforced in a classroom. Students can apply for a position and be rewarded or promoted for a job well done.

Some classroom jobs might involve passing out materials, documenting or taking notes, managing a classroom library, filing papers or helping with a bulletin board. Jobs in a responsive classroom can accommodate multiple learning styles such as artistic, kinesthetic and verbal.

7 Ways to Give Your Students a Sense of Belonging | Turnitin

Many teachers, especially at the elementary level, seat or group students along gender lines. However, not everyone fits traditional gender categories. Some students may feel they are truly a different gender than their physical bodies suggest; others might not fit neatly into either the male or female identity category. Using gender-neutral categories or allowing students to choose the group with which they identify affirms the experiences of all students.

Differences shape who we are and what we know. Life, history, society and power cannot be understood from a single perspective; we need multiple viewpoints to truly see the world. Because of this, inclusive classrooms must function as learning communities built on shared inquiry and dialogue. Dialogue is more than conversation. It is also different than debate, in which someone wins and someone loses. Dialogue requires openness to new ideas and collective learning. This is not an easy practice; for students and teachers to engage in dialogue, they must build and exercise specific skills:.

Shared inquiry and dialogue support two of the four anti-bias domains: Diversity and Action. Building the skills necessary to explore multiple perspectives fosters critical thinking, complex textual understanding and appreciation for diversity. Dialogue also supports active listening, respectful sharing and conflict resolution.

The importance of connecting classrooms to the real world

A culture of shared inquiry offers a lived example of meaningful collaborative work and a model for community building. Because many students experience classrooms that do not value shared inquiry and dialogue, it is important for teachers to create a safe environment before asking students to engage in this work. Active listening is a way of hearing and responding to another person that requires the listener to stop thinking about his or her own ideas and focus on the speaker.

Active listening behavior includes asking good questions, listening without judgment and paraphrasing. These behaviors can be modeled through the use of talking circles or ordered sharing. Short practice activities can also strengthen active listening skills. To most teachers, class participation means contributing to discussions, volunteering to answer questions or otherwise engaging in verbal exchanges.

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However, participation does not have to be verbal; gender, culture and ability may affect student comfort levels with verbal communication. Modeling equity and inclusiveness calls for a broader definition of participation that includes active listening, written response, artistic response and involvement in small groups.

Strategies for Student Centered Discussion

These options should all be valued as classroom participation. Teachers need to prepare for possible conflicts or hurt feelings when exploring personally or politically sensitive material. It is also helpful for teachers to check in with students who seem upset as a result of a class activity or conversation.

Social-emotional learning, respect and safety are as important as literacy and critical thinking skills when exploring an anti-bias curriculum. Research shows that students need to feel both physically and emotionally safe to learn.

21 Tips for Connecting Learners to Their Community

This includes safety from stereotype threat, harassment and exclusion. Work on classroom climate and social-emotional learning cannot simply focus on empathy, kindness and inclusion. Social difference and bias underlie many unsafe and exclusionary behaviors; these issues need to be discussed explicitly. Appreciation for multicultural perspectives is also critical when teaching about relationship building, conflict management and community.

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