Five ways to get to know your students

The beginning of the new school year is an exciting and stressful time when you have a brand new class. Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested activities to help you deal with basic responsibilities such as remembering names and creating that first bond with your students.

Here are five ways to get to know your students.

 "What's Behind Your Name?"

Remembering names is very important, since knowing somebody's name is the first natural icebreaker in a conversation. Students might pretend not to care, but all of them will appreciate if you memorize their name quickly and correctly. 

The "What's Your Name" or "What's Behind Your Name" game goes deeper than just memorizing names. It is about what names mean and student's relationships to their names.

Create simple forms with questions about student's names. Some ideas for questions are:

  • What's your first name?
  • Do you have a second name as well?
  • What's the meaning of your name?
  • What's your name's country of origin?
  • Who choose your name and why?
  • Would you like to have a different name, and which one?
  • Do you have a nickname?
  • Can you draw your name in a fun way at the bottom of this page?

For younger students, point out that it is fine for their parents to help, and the parent-child team can then write two names at the bottom of the page instead of one.

You can put the forms on display in the classroom and take some time each day to let children introduce themselves with the help of their sheet. They should pick two to three questions about their names they will present in front of you and the others.

Although you will be dealing with a lot of new information, you will see that both you and other students will miraculously remember new names quickly. 

Sharing Personal Artifacts

Organise sharing personal artifacts that show student's interests. Sharing can take place on a bulletin board, a designated wall, or in a class scrapbook which students will pass among themselves. Items can include pictures, postcards, or other convenient items which tell a personal story about a student. These are good conversation starters. Another great benefit of this activity is that personal items can say a lot about students with a few words, which will benefit shy children.

Classroom Card Game

Help your students create index cards with basic information about themselves: name, birthday, siblings, pets, hobbies, and activities in and out of school. They can even draw a portrait of themselves. You will stack the cards and each day the student whose card is on the top will get special attention. You can ask the student to introduce him or herself, and then make him/her your assistant for the day. Interact with each student in a way that will make them feel special.

One-to-One Time

When getting to know your new class, never forget the importance of one-to-one conferring. Children tend to act differently in a group, and besides, one-to-one attention builds trust and prevents the formation of toxic relationships.

Make a list of your students and dedicate some discrete time to one student each day. Try to make it light and non-threatening. Calling the conversation sessions "interviews" or "small talk" might aid that.

The Parents

From early on, it is beneficial to find a way to include parents into the classroom life, since you can learn a lot about the child from their parents or guardians. If there is a cause your students are particularly passionate about, you could organize a benefit party with the help from their parents. This will bring the entire parent-student class community closer together, to the benefit of all.

Five tips for getting ready for back to school 2018/ 2019 with no stress

It doesn't have to be true for everyone, but it is a reality for many teachers: the first few weeks of your summer vacation are probably going to be leisurely, as they should be. But then a nagging voice is likely to appear in your head. It will tell you (repeatedly) that you should be getting ready. You will probably try to fight it, but it will get harder with time. Because you know those holidays just fly by, don't they?

You know you shouldn't let the beginning of the new school year catch you off guard. But on the other hand, you know you shouldn't let the excessive preparation ruin your well-deserved holiday. The good news is you can find a balance, and find some time to prepare to go back to school with no stress, while still having time to rest.

Here are five tips on how to manage this balance like a pro. 

Reflect back on your last year

Look back at your last school year - the way you've worked, what you felt. Put yourself first for a moment and recognise possible negative patterns regarding your work-life balance. What would you like to do differently? Take some time to also recognise positive patterns regarding your work-life balance. What would you like to continue? Write down all the significant discoveries. 

Decide to start fresh

Now that you're done with thinking about the past school year, let the actual moments and expectations of last year go. Coming into class with leftover or preconceived notions and attitudes can harm both you and your students and affect your relationship profoundly. The new year is coming, so try to treat it that way.

Better organising to reduce stress

If you've been losing sleep over preparing lessons and tests during the last year, it might be a sign that you're not feeling organized enough. Being tired and sleepless is unpleasant as it is, but it also stresses you out in the long run. Start to organize yourself better by getting a planner (or a planning app) and start writing things down. You can write down stand-alone ideas for your class (such as literature lists, classroom layouts, science experiments, etc.), but make some concrete plans as well - when and where will you go on an excursion, lesson plans, etc.

This teacher binder is the ultimate way to get ready for the school year ahead. It will keep you focused without having to waste valuable time creating your own binder from scratch. To see more about this binder click here.

Work a bit, but not too much

While we all want to make the best and the most of our holiday, it turns out that doing some work before the beginning of the new working season pays off in the sense you'll be feeling less anxious and more ready. Going through last year's notes and lesson plans, and finishing that teaching book counts as work too.

Take care of yourself

Use the last weeks or days of your holiday to recharge genuinely.  The best way to restore your energy levels seems to be the combination of spending time in nature, breathing with meditation, and any physical activity such as exercising, yoga, or running. Also, try to stay away from devices as much as you can. While you may feel the need to do a lot of work for your students, the truth is that they won't benefit much from a teacher who burned out even before the year has started. So relax, and look ahead to the new school confidently knowing that a recharged teacher is the best way to start a new school year.

Looking for some low prep options this Back to School season? Why not check out my Teacher Binder, my Back to School Worksheets, or my All About Me Booklet.