Teaching children can be a very rewarding job, but when the classes are fairly large, it can be difficult to ensure that all children are receiving information in a way that they’ll be able to learn. This is where the importance of knowing your students comes in. The better you know your students in their capacity as learners, including their interests, weaknesses, and strengths, the easier it will be to help them to be successful in the academic setting.
How Can You Get to Know Your Students Better?
Allow older students to write about themselves and their hobbies and interests early in the school year. Allow them to flesh it out with anything else they would like to add which may give you more insight into their personalities and lives.
For younger students, a sharing bag is an excellent opportunity to learn more about them. Give them a small paper bag during Meet the Teacher night or on the first day of school and ask them to place 3-5 things inside that tell the class more about themselves. This gives them an opportunity to share with props that help to keep them on topic.
Another way is to ask them to draw themselves and what they find important. This is great for both young and older students. You could also look at questionnaires which could give basic information as well as some detail on hobbies and what they enjoy. The best way is simply to talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Student and teacher conversations can include discussions on studies and grades but can also include chatting about their home life and outside interests.
Another novel idea is to join pupils in games and have fun with them, learn what makes them tick, what they enjoy, how they handle winning and losing, and simply have fun with them. Spending time with them in play can help forge a stronger bond and allow the children to open up to you as well.
Don’t forget to get parents’ and care givers’ perspective. Ask them to answer a question or two about the student. For instance, “One thing I want you to know about Christopher is ____” or “Christopher is very good at _______”. It is also very insightful into the family dynamic if you ask, “My biggest wish for Christopher is that he _______.” This allows those that love the student most to give you some insight into their strengths.
How Can You Accommodate Differing Needs?
Knowing a student’s strengths and weaknesses can go a long way towards structuring learning for each individual to help them succeed. Celebrate their achievements and encourage them to improve and persevere.
Making use of visual study materials can help students that may be studying in their second language or that might be hearing impaired. Ensure that items required for the classroom are accessible for all students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Be culturally and gender sensitive. Try not to generalize and be sure to include anecdotes and information from a variety of cultural backgrounds to make all students feel included in the class.
Call on students by name. Don’t make assumptions about any of the children and encourage them all to succeed. Setting high expectations is a key driver in student success. The importance of knowing your students can be demonstrated again in this aspect.
The more you know about the student, the better you will be able to assist them in improving their knowledge through various means. One other small thing that teachers can do, that actually has an enormous impact on student engagement, is simply greeting the pupils at the door. Greet them by name, smile, perhaps offer comments that show you are interested in them or have some idea of what their interests are.
As a teacher who cares and is aware of the importance of knowing your students, you’re more likely to have a higher academic success rate among students than one who does not have the same awareness. Knowing your students on a more personal level will allow you to help them when they are going through struggles at home, friends and so forth, so that you better understand their mental state and help them cope with studies as well as other issues.
For more strategies on how to build relationships in your classroom, check out these tools.
INcompassing Education provides professional development for educators (on-site, off-site, and online PD). Our webinars, Supporting Students of Trauma and Supporting Mental Health in Schools, will equip you with knowledge and skills to better support students. You will also earn credits for your continuing education. For questions and inquiries, please visit our contact page or like our Facebook page, INcompassing Education LLC.