Interacting with students

I’m looking for ideas to get to know my students better and interact with them. My head spins with six different groups of students each day.  –M., Maryland

You may have heard the idea that students don’t care what you know until they know you care. But in a secondary classroom, trying to connect with 150 students each day seems impossible.

Some students demand our attention: those who raise their hands, have outgoing personalities, or use negative behaviors. But the quiet or contemplative students, students learning English, or those with issues interacting socially may require more of our effort to connect with them. These students and their interests can be overlooked in a busy classroom.

Perhaps you ask students to record data on an index card: name, birthday, nickname, interests/hobbies, extracurriculars, and out-of-school activities such as jobs, community organizations, or volunteer work. (You may have an app to record this information electronically). Use these cards to select a different student each class period. This is not a formal student-of-the-day designation, but a subtle way of ensuring that you interact with all students. For example, greet them at the door, inquire about their activities, call on them for answers or to share thoughts, ask them to be class assistants, or discuss topics with them during seatwork or group work. As you repeat the process, you will get to know each student a little better.

At first their responses might be a “You talkin’ to me?” especially from students not used to teachers’ attention. But most will appreciate your efforts. I was the “quiet” one in class, but I still had something to contribute, and fortunately some of my teachers were able to tap into my thinking.


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4 Responses to Interacting with students

  1. Zach Williams says:

    I started a role call game. Every time I call roll I have them answer a question. Things like “Where would you like to go, the beach or the mountains?” or “Do you like it outside better when it’s hot or cold?” Its a basic game, but now role has more entertainment and you get to learn a little about the kids. Then as you continue going through them you start to recognize different attributes from the students due to their choices.

  2. Eileen says:

    I have a huge map of the world in my classroom. Each student comes up and puts a small sticky with their name on the country or countries their ancestors, parents, grandparents or they themselves are from. I make a big deal about it because who you are is a big deal!. During the year as we refer to different areas of the world whether in science, social studies etc I refer to that student. The kids feel proud.

    • Mary Bigelow says:

      Nice idea! If you have students who don’t know where their ancestors are from, perhaps you could add an option to have the students put a note on a country they would like to visit.

  3. Kristen Spence says:

    At the beginning of the year I have the students fill out a Who I Am worksheet that talks about their background, favorite foods and movies, an accomplishment they are proud of and what they think the qualities of a good Biology teacher are. Usually I read through them at the beginning of the year and then they fall by the wayside. I LOVE the idea of picking one from each period each day and interacting with that student. It’s a great way to give them each a little personal attention and also let them know that I did pay attention to their paper and didn’t just throw it away. In the past I’ve also used my class website to have them complete an All About Me assignment where they tell me a little about themselves. Some of them really pour their hearts out to me, who at the time is a stranger. I feel that by gaining their confidence and showing that I care about them as a person, we develop a much better rapport.

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