Back to School in Secondary

At the beginning of the year, I don't know my students, and they don't know me. And with 180+ students over the course of the day, it takes a long time. So a couple of years after I started teaching, I devised a cheat sheet so to speak for my students and I to get to know each other. 

On the first or second day of school, I give students a self-reflection task to help get to know them and think about what makes them tick. Later I do some more formal goal setting, and I also use a fun game (all you need is post-it notes - free here).





Students use this reflection to generate an essential list about themselves for me. 

 Why?  

  • Because it is very important for me to know that sometimes students get bored in math and seem like they aren't paying attention because they already understand it.
  • Because it's easier to connect with them when I can ask them how rock climbing is going. 
  • Because it's important to know that they might be too shy to raise their hand.

The second part of the reflection is an art project that becomes part of a class bulletin board for everyone to learn about each other. I participate, too, so that my students can learn essential things about me. 















I love, love starting the year off this way because:
  1. My students and I connect faster, and they know I care to get to know them as people which makes everything in my class run more smoothly.
  2. I can greet students by asking them questions related to the cheat sheet which also helps me learn names faster. (Important for me because I am truly terrible at names)
  3. My students start to get to know each other faster through our community project.
I also play Guess Who? (Best first day of school I have had or witnessed) and do Wanted posters.  By the end of that first week, we know each other pretty well for only having spent a few hours with each other, at least enough to have a pretty respectful community.  And as to content?  We are doing a little of both this first week and homework includes a mix of get to know each other preparation and assessment of student skills so that I can get everyone started at the right place.


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12 comments

  1. This is a great idea! It probably helps you to begin a bond with your students right off, because you are listening to them. Building those bonds can be so tricky in middle school.

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  2. Absolutely, Amy! I feel like getting to know the students is so important to them knowing that I love them and that when I ask them to do the "yucky" stuff, it is because I know they need it. The better the community that gets built I think the better the class is. It's so important in secondary in particular.

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  3. I love your activities that you use to get to know each other!

    Teaching Autism

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    Replies
    1. What a warm thought. Thanks for sharing!

      Cheers,
      DocRunning

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  4. Thanks for linking up! I love your ideas and was thinking I could easily implement them in third grade! It is absolutely essential to get to know your students-- that's how you can be most successful! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I do think many of the ideas are adaptable across grade levels. Love to hear about how you use them in third grade.

      Cheers,
      DocRunning

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  5. You have some great ideas! Thanks for sharing.
    Sandra
    Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading them...Glad it could be helpful.

      Cheers,
      DocRunning

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  6. It really is so much easier to connect with students when you know them a little better. I'm fortunate that I've only ever had around 80 at one time, but it still takes time to find out what makes them "click".

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    1. Absolutely! The connections with students just make everything easier. And now I teach less than 50 students each quarter, so it's more fun than ever.

      Cheers,
      DocRunning

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  7. Love the self-reflecting sheet at the beginning of the school year! Have a fabulous school year.

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  8. Great ideas for getting to know your students!

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