by Victoria Gillis
Classrooms need to be safe places where students and teachers can teach and learn. One way to create a culture of caring in your classroom is to get to know the students and let them get to know you. Taking the time to create an atmosphere of trust helps you save time later in the year. Collaborative learning activities and small group work are more effective and efficient if you have taken the time to create a strong foundation for productive student interaction.
Two strategies that help students get to know each other as well as get to know themselves are featured below: the 'Biopoem' and 'What’s Easy/What’s Hard'.
This is an excellent creative writing strategy that can also be used to have students summarize their knowledge about a topic. An example of a Biopoem used to get acquainted is provided in this issue along with a pattern for the Biopoem. Feel free to adapt the Biopoem pattern to your own needs.
What’s Easy/What's Hard
Another strategy that is very helpful for both teachers and students is What’s Easy/What’s Hard. This is a kind of Think/Write that asks students to consider what is easy for them about a particular academic subject and what is hard. The act of reflecting on their own learning will help students to become more aware of their own learning and thus more metacognitive.
How to Use Relationship Building Strategies
When using any new writing strategy, provide students with an example of a good response. This helps students understand the task. With “Get to Know You” strategies, we are using writing to learn about students. Providing them with an example helps students get to know you. I always provide my own 'Biopoem' as well as my own 'What’s Easy/What’s Hard' for students when I introduce these strategies to students. They are provided for you above.
Some teachers like to use the 'Biopoem' or 'What’s Easy/What’s Hard' in a 'People Search' after students complete the assignment. To do a 'People Search', give students a specified amount of time, dependent on the number of students in class, and have them find one or more students with something in common with them. You could have students introduce each other, if time permits. In any case, some walking around and conversation time sets an expectation that students will participate.
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