Getting to know you games can be fun. Or not. Depending on your tolerance for games. The beginning of the year is often full of such activities so that when October rolls around, you feel a bit — well — done with getting to know you games.
But as the year matures, there’s something very simple you can do every day to get to know your kids that will shift the energy in your classroom. It’s so simple, you’ll be taken aback by its success.
Pick Three and See
This idea was suggested to me by another teacher ten years ago, and it’s brilliant. If applied with genuine curiosity and goodwill, it will change how students feel about you forever.
It’s this: Pick three kids each day and pay particular attention to them all day. That’s it. Pick three and see.
Of course, our job is to pay attention to all the kids. But with these three, give an extra ten percent. Be a personality detective.
Getting to Know You Socially
When they come in, ask how their day’s going. What did they do last weekend? Notice what they’re eating for snack or lunch. Do they have enough? Are they even eating their lunch? Who do they hang out with at recess? What are their favorite hobbies? Books? Movies?
What games do they love? What’s their family like? Do they have chores at home? Who are their friends?
It’s not a CIA mission, of course. There’s no judgment on the answers. It’s all about getting to know them. In fact, once you get in the swing of this, it feels like a game. Smile with them. Joke with them! Tell them something silly your dog did.
Going out with your class at recess can provide oodles of information. What do your three like to do at recess? Do they prefer doing things by themselves or with others? Do they try to join in and find their efforts thwarted? Are they kind to younger kids?
Getting to Know You Academically
Pay particular attention to them throughout the academic day. How do they listen? Or not listen? Where do they sit? Are they confused and hiding? Bored? Are they meeting the daily objectives? Are they applying their new learning to their work? Or are they phoning it in?
What are they doing well? Where do they shine? Everybody shines in some way. Whether they have a strongly developed sense of humor or can draw cars with incredibly accuracy. Find that thing. Or things.
The point of all this fact-finding isn’t to catch kids doing things right or wrong. It’s to see what makes them tick. Who are they? How do they make the world better? Because if you can plug into that? — Your year with them will be a treat. You will love coming to school. These little guys will be your people!
And just by your paying attention to them, they will feel closer to you. They will know you actually care about them. They will try a little harder because someone notices. Someone sees what they’re good at. And sees what they struggle with. And likes them no matter what.
Pick three more and see
And the next day? Pick three other kids.
Do this every day, and in a couple of weeks you’ll have covered your whole class. Then start again, building on the foundation you’ve created. Pick three every day. And see.
Why it works
Why does it work so well? In great part because it’s simple and doable. Getting to know the ins and outs of all your kids? That’s an overwhelming project. But three? That’s nothing! Anyone can touch base with three kids a day.
It also provides a wealth of information for parent teacher conferences. Working together with parents, you can spot both challenges the child faces and opportunities for growth.
Plus? It’s just fun. It makes work more electric and alive. It makes you, the teacher, happy. And if the teacher is happy? Chances are, the kids will be happy too. It becomes an unstoppable tornado of giggles.
And when those bad days hit? (Because they always do. Doesn’t matter how good you are.) That time you spent building those relationships is a solid bridge to get your kids over any dark periods. You might not see it immediately. But you will see it.
Getting to know you NOW
If you can’t wait to get to know your little ones, you can also try a fast exercise called I Wish My Teacher Knew. I do this a couple of times every year and I wish I’d started doing this my first year of teaching. It’s fast and HIGHLY effective. Your classroom will never be the same.
You’ll want to continue your getting-to-know-you Pick 3 and See method too, as that is just plain old fun and helpful. The I Wish My Teacher Knew writing will give you an immediate read on your whole room. The Pick 3 and See will build on those relationships and make them air-tight.
Now let’s hear from you! In the comments below, tell us: Who are three students you can focus on tomorrow? (And to protect their identities, you can give them pseudonyms. Harry Potter names would work beautifully.) OR. What are some successful getting to know you activities you try with your class?
As always, if you found this information valuable, please share it on your favorite social media platform! Till next week!
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