Master teachers are well aware of the importance of getting to know their students. They employ strategies that often integrate the cultivation of student to student and student to teacher relationships with subject areas in the beginning of the year. Whether you find yourself with all your children attending school, total online learning, or some sort of hybrid; it is imperative to acknowledge this important step in building your learning community.
We know the more the members of a community know one another, the more likely they are to keep each other safe socially, physically, and emotionally. Risk taking, a vital factor to growth, is also more likely to be occurring when learners are more aware of one another. For those reasons alone we should move vigorously at the beginning of the year and also promote planned opportunities throughout the year for getting to know each other. However, the value of a learning community, including the teacher, reaches into the deepest part of learning, the personal interest aspect.
“Giuseppe, what kind of shark is this?” is asked by Caroline. Giuseppe and Caroline are classmates. Giuseppe is an eight year old boy who loves sharks and is known as the class shark expert. “That’s a bull shark. You can tell because…” Guiseppe was given an opportunity to research sharks because the teacher surveyed the children to learn what their interests were. Caroline was submerged in the study of chocolate with her friend Maddy. The two eight year old girls learned about the historical implications of chocolate, broadened their understanding of geography, and even toyed with gaining perspective on the economics of chocolate. At eight years old they could do this because the teacher learned their interests, allowed for them to follow them through research and instituted various sharing apparatus to provide for the sharing of what the children learned.
Master teachers drive their teaching with the interests of children at the front of their yearlong and unit planning. They have many ways of finding this out. Yes, a survey can be conducted. Some other ways are:
Asking the question, “What are your hopes and dreams for this school year?” Then exercising the responses through discussion, writing, and visual presentation that is tapped into throughout the year, reflected upon, and revised so more learning can occur.
Autobiographies can allow for children to learn a genre and use the most important topic in their life, themself. So much can be revealed.
All About Me posters are a great way for children to get the word out on what moves them, what types of foods they like, the ball teams they follow, the music that most inspires them, their favorite author, and a whole lot more.
Likes/Dislikes T-Charts are a fun way for students to get the word out quickly regarding their most driving feelings and thoughts.
No matter what environment you find yourself in, take the time to have your students execute this important part of being in a learning community. You may have made these sorts of efforts in brick and mortar and are now wondering what it looks like in an online setting. Whatever choice you make for the online setting, be sure it doesn’t create a lot of work for you or the students so that the main purpose of the action isn’t lost on frustration with technology. Go with what they know already or something you have to teach them in this regard for other work. Be sure that “Getting to Know” is where the bulk of the energy goes.