To be successful, students need to be connected, and this connection comes in several forms. First and foremost, this means developing positive relational capacity within your classroom setting. It doesn’t stop there, however. Students need to be connected to their academic work, and classrooms are much more effective when families are also meaningfully connected. To maximize the effectiveness of your classroom, consider how you are establishing and maintaining connections in these four key areas.
Teacher to Student: It’s important that students know that you see them as individuals. There are many simple ways that you can establish and nurture this type of relationship. Greet them by name. Show interest in their personal lives. Praise their successes and send a letter home to honor those successes. Check in individually and in small groups to see how students are feeling. Display their work on walls and bulletin boards.
Student to Student: Students won’t take risks if they don’t feel safe and accepted. To improve student emotional well-being, as well as academic success, build a connected classroom community. You can do this by facilitating classroom mixers, seeking input from students about class routines, giving them a voice in classroom decisions, working collaboratively toward a shared goal, and promoting gratitude and positivity.
Teacher to Family: Families are integral parts of the learning environment and can be valuable partners in the learning process. These relationships must be intentionally established and nourished. Be sure to reach out early, develop and share a consistent classroom communication system, check in with families throughout the year, and communicate with empathy and care.
Student to Learning: For students to feel ownership in their learning and to feel motivated to learn, they need to feel a connection to the learning experience. To connect them, offer voice and choice, co-construct rubrics, build on their existing strengths and interests, engage in inquiry- or project-based learning, and provide opportunities for students to connect culturally.
These connections can begin even before you meet your students. Consider sending out a letter or email to students and families the week prior to the school year starting. Leverage existing distribution lists and messaging systems to save yourself time. Keep everyone connected with regular newsletters, emails, or a common online space for announcements. Most importantly, create intentional opportunities for you and your students to get to know each other and develop trust and community in your classroom. It can be very effective to include some sort of mixer at the start of each class period, especially for the first week or two. These can be fun activities that are solely for the purpose of building relational capacity, or they might be connected to academic goals to maximize your time.
How can I learn more?
Explore AVID Open Access for more free templates, tool tips, podcasts, and other great resources, including those below:
- Accelerate Learning by Making Connections: Build Trust Through Relationships, Community, and Connection (article)
- Ed Tip: Community Building (with templates and activity ideas)
- Create Community and Nurture Connections to Support Social and Emotional Learning (article collection)