I have many, many areas in my teaching that needs work, and I try to do something each year that improves my effectiveness. However, one area in which I’ve had great success is creating a rapport with students. Of course, no one method works well, so I try to reach my students in various ways.
I posted previously about my first day of school where I allow my students (anonymously) to guide the first day by asking questions about my classes and my background. One year I started with a classroom version of The Match Game. These types of activities are great introduction activities, but I prefer some indirect ways of talking with students.
One of my favorite rapport builders is having a couple items of trivia on the board each day. At first I thought it was really for me more than students–since I’m a huge trivia nut–but one day I forgot to put up the new trivia and student after student walked in and asked me where the trivia facts were. They were genuinely disappointed that the factoids were not on the board. More importantly, the kids’ curiosity would sometimes initiate brief discussions on different topics or entice them to look up additional information on the bits of trivia. I now receive suggestions for topics and even receive requests to put up their own factoids. I included a fun link to a trivia site for the The Simpsons on Friday.
I also really like an idea by Dana Huff at HuffEnglish.com that I may explore.
Another rapport builder in my classroom is what I call my Happy Wall. I take a corner of my classroom every year and reserve it for pictures and notes I have received from students. Having taught for slightly over a decade, I now have amassed a fairly large collection, and my students enjoy looking at my former students’ pictures and their messages to me as well as their reflections on the class. Some of them like looking for their older siblings and seeing what their experiences were like.
Lastly, I try to rotate the posters in the room, the student works I display, and the themed bulletin board I keep. I started the year with a Harry Potter wall which became a Lord of the Rings wall. It became a science fiction wall and then a student project wall. The students enjoy expressing their enjoyment of the themes and exploring the articles, pictures, maps, and brochures centering on the chosen theme. Right now it’s blank and I need to decide on the next theme to be displayed to start the 2nd semester.