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.

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