Tuesday, March 7, 2017

74 Ways to Build Relationships with Students

It all goes back to relationships!

Relationships are the essential element in our schools. The old adage, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is true especially in today’s society when kids are used to so much choice in their world. Also, in today’s busy world, it’s important for teachers and school staff to make positive connections with students. We must be intentional, and taking time with these relationships must be purposeful.

Members of the Compelled Tribe have teamed up to share practical ways for educators to build relationships with students. As connected educators we also embrace the notion that it is the power of the team that drives much of what we do. How do you build relationships with those that you serve? See the list below for ideas to add to what you may be already doing in the buildings and districts in which you work.

1. Greet students at the door. Smile and call them by name. Tell them you are glad to see them.
2. Ask your students to share three things about themselves. Let them choose what they share. Keep them on index cards to help make connections throughout the year.
3. Know your students families. As important as it is to know the students, make the connection to home. Great relationships with your kids starts where they kick off their day. As the year continues and both the good and bad arise, having that connection will be crucial to getting the results you are seeking.
4. Journal writing is an activity to get to know your students well and give students a voice in the classroom.
5. Make positive phone calls home especially within the first two weeks of the school year.
6. Genius Hour/Passion Projects really give teachers an opportunity to learn about student passions.
7. Have kids make something that represents them out of Play-dough and share.
8. In the first couple of days of school, learn the first name of every student in your first class of the day, and something personal and unique about them that has nothing to do with your first class of the day.
9. Be vulnerable!  Let your guard down and show your students that you are a learner, you make mistakes, and persevere.  They will see you as a person, opening the door for a relationship built on trust. Share stories about yourself as a learner or challenges you’ve faced when you were there age and help them see what it took to overcome it. It’s easy to forget how much a simple connection can make the difference.
10. Eat together.  Have breakfast with a small group of kids or join them at the lunch table.  Gathering around meal time provides an informal way to have conversations and get to know your students.
11. Hold Monday morning meetings (We call them “Weekend News Updates”). Ask each student to share about their weekend - good or bad.  Ask questions. Be sure to share about your weekend too!  Occasionally bring in breakfast or make hot chocolate.
12. Laugh with them. Frequently. Show them that school, and your class, is just not about learning stuff. It is about sharing an experience. Tell them you missed them if they were out.
13. Keep in touch with past students.  Show past students that you do not have a 1 year contract with them.  The ongoing relationship will also model to your current students the value of a positive classroom community.
14. At the elementary level -- hold morning meeting everyday as a class and stick to the routine of greeting, sharing, team building activity, and morning message.  This is a sacred time to build and maintain a culture of risk tasking and building relationships.
15. Send positive postcards home to every child. Have them address it on the first day of the quarter, keep them and challenge yourself to find at least one thing each quarter to celebrate about your students, let them and their parents know.
16. Find their interests and what motivates them! Sometimes it may take a bit to break down barriers and build trust, but through being genuine and authentic with them this will happen in no time.
17. Make personal phone calls to parents. Find one good thing to say about the children in your class.  It can be how they contributed to a class discussion or how well mannered they are in class or in the halls. For older students it can be how diligent a student is at learning challenging content.
18. Share something about yourself that they will find relevant or interesting to extend your relationships with students.
19. Tell a story from a time you were their age. This approach allows students to see teachers as they once were and make connections easier to establish and maintain.
20. Create a unique handshake or symbol for each of your students.  Use it when you greet them at the door or say goodbye.
21. Eat lunch with a group of kids throughout the week. They will enjoy a time dedicated just to them. (And you will enjoy a peaceful lunch!)
22. As a school, hold monthly celebrations to recognize students and educators their accomplishments.
23. Take pictures with students. Print. Write a special note on the back to the student.
24. At the end of a term or year, write a thank you to students telling them what you have learned from them. Be specific and honest - authenticity goes a long way. Try to make the note handwritten if possible, but email works well too.
25. Each day write two students a personal  note about something that you have noticed about them.  Go into some detail and be specific. Keep track of who you reach out to over the year and try and reach as many students as you can. The time you spend doing this will deepen connections and pay off 10 fold.
26. Have dance parties! It is so fun to let loose and get down with students. Students love seeing you have fun with them, and the saying goes, “The class that dances together, stays together”.
27. Play with students at recess or during a free time. Climb the monkey bars, play kickball, or tag. Students will never forget you connecting with them on the playground.
28. Hang out in the hall to give high fives or to have quick conversations with students. Relationship-building can be squeezed into any time of the day.
29. Notice students having a bad day. Ask questions without prying. Show that you care. Follow up the next day, week, etc.
30. When a student is having a rough day, ask if he/she has eaten. We are all more unreasonable when we are hungry. Keep a supply of snacks on hand (ex: breakfast bars, crackers, etc).
31. Go see students at their events: sports, theater, dance, volunteering. Meet parents and families.
32. When a student stops to say “Hello” and has a friend in tow, introduce yourself and be sure that the guest feels important.
33. Stop class from time to time with a comment such as, “Hey, everyone, Katie just asked me a great question. I think you’ll all benefit from this. Katie, could you repeat that for everyone?”
34. Sing “Happy Birthday” to students; send birthday emails (I use “Boomerang” to schedule my birthday emails each month).
35. Say “I missed you yesterday” when a student has been absent. Be sincere.
36. We have to make time to grow relationships with our students. This time can not always be in a planner or a calendar. Sometimes, this simply means just being there for your students.
37. Mail them a postcard for their birthday. They are always amazed to receive personal mail!
38. In a leadership position, learn as many names as you can. Greet students by their name as often as you are able.
39. Music! Bond with your students over music. Play soft classical music while they are working. Incorporate music/songs into special events or lessons.
40. Classroom: Start a compliment jar. Share comments at the end of class or randomly throughout the day. School: Do shout-outs during morning (or afternoon) announcements/news show.
41. Smile and make eye contact.  “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”. Something as simple as a greeting in the hall with smile and eye contact conveys both warmth & safety.  Try it tomorrow.  
42. First day of math class have them choose 10 numbers that are significant to them (3 for number of cats, 1 for brothers, 20 for number of hours they work, etc.).  Everyone shares out.  You will learn lots about all your students in one day.  
43. Cut them some slack every now and then.  “What were you doing?  What should you have been doing?  Can you do that for me next time?”  We all make mistakes.  
44. Hold class celebrations and have students develop unique cheers for various accomplishments...these can be anything from a sports team victory, to being selected for something, to earning a grade, and they need not be school related.
45. Allen Mendler’s 2x10 strategy for challenging students. Spend 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days talking to a student about something not academic.
46. Share your own goals, successes/failures. Don’t be a mystery to your students.
47. After morning announcements have students participate in a daily discussion question.  Have a student read the question and set a timer for two and a half minutes.  Each person turns to a partner and answers the question then volunteers share with the whole class.  Each question, in some way, will help you get to know your students.
48. Halfway through the year, have your parents and students fill out a feedback form.  In my classroom, these forms look different.  Allow them to evaluate you so you can keep what works and change things that aren’t working.
49. In your summer introduction letter, include a letter asking parents to write about their children in 1,000,000 words or less.  Keep the assignment voluntary and open so they tell you what is most important to them.
50. Don’t be too busy to truly listen.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Are you starting a lesson when a student interrupts and tells you they are moving? Take the minute to hear them out.  That time will mean more to the student than the first minute of the lesson ever will.
51. When students get stuck in class, teach the other students to cheer them on.  We do a simple, “Come on, [Name], you can do it,” followed by three seconds of clapping.
52. Teach students call and responses to uplift each other.  When a student responds with something profound and someone loves it, that student gets to start the cheer.
53. When you check in with groups to give them feedback or see how it’s going, make sure you are seeing them eye-to-eye.  If they’re sitting, don’t stand.  Pull up a chair next to them.  If they’re sitting on the floor, sit down on the floor next to them to avoid standing over them.
54. Give honest feedback even when it may not be positive.  Your students will appreciate that you expect more out of them than they’re showing.
55. Create a “You Matter” wall.  Take fun pictures of each of your students. Print each photo and put each student’s photo in an 8x10 frame.  Hang them all on your wall under a “You Matter” heading.  At the end of the year, send the photos home with students.
56. Tell them what was hard for you when you went through school and how you worked to overcome the challenges.  It shows they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
57. Defend your students in front of other people.
58. Take risks so students feel comfortable doing the same.  Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do.
59. Create something that is unique to your class.  For us, it’s a house competition.  It’s something that connects my past students and current students.  It’s also a family bond that only the students who have been in my class understand.
60. Apologize when you make a mistake.
61. Cook together and then you can eat family style in the classroom. Some fun and easy crockpot meals: applesauce, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. Then, make cupcakes for dessert!
62. Every so often, take the pulse of your building according to students. Convene a volunteer roundtable with student reps from various groups (athletes, scholars, quiet, loud) and ask them for critical feedback about topics you are working on. Some ideas I’ve seen discussed in this format include schoolwide incentives (assemblies, sledding event, etc.), dress code, and discussing recess options for winter.
63. During your informal walk throughs, saddle up right next to students and ask them the purpose of the lesson they are involved in. Why do you think the teacher is asking you to work on this? You’ll be more than surprised with the honest feedback.
64. Bring board games back! Add a few games like Checkers, Uno or Chess to your lunch table options. See if any students are willing to play a game or two with you and others.
65. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the entry of your building with positive messages to students. Have teachers help you write and draw the notes!
66. Leave nice notes on post-its for students on the outside of their lockers. Recruit other students to help spread the kindness throughout many lockers!
67. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Remind them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Don’t hold grudges against misbehavior and don’t allow other adults to hold them either.
68. Make time for dismissal. Tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share high fives on the way out!
69. Notice which students still don’t have money to pay for lunch. Help them out when you can. Treat them to a snack they don’t usually get to purchase at lunch time.
70. Find special projects that need to be done around school and recruit the most unlikely helpers.
71. Remind your students you and your staff were all kids once too. Have your team bring in pictures of themselves as children (at the ages you have in your school). Post them and have a contest allowing students to guess which teacher is which. Those 80s pictures are the most popular!
72. My favorite question to ask my students or any student I come in contact with is what are you into lately? This opens communication with your students and let's them know you are interested.
73. Allow students to do a job shadow. Give them a peek into what you do and how you make daily decisions.
74. Host an ice cream social for students that meet certain goals.

The list will grow as our experiences and our connections grow. Feel free to reach out to any of the tribe members listed below to learn more about the power of our team and how our tribe constantly supports each other in our teaching, leading and learning.

Compelled Tribe Contributors:

Jennifer Hogan, The Compelled Educator  @Jennifer_Hogan
Jonathon Wennstrom, Spark of Learning  @jon_wennstrom
Craig Vroom, Fueling Education, @Vroom6
Allyson Apsey, Serendipity in Education, @allysonapsey
Sandy King Inspiring The Light @sandeeteach
Jacie Maslyk   http://jaciemaslyk.blogspot.com/    @DrJacieMaslyk
Jodie Pierpoint  Journey In Learning @jodiepierpoint  
Jim Cordery   Mr. Cordery’s Blog  @jcordery
Allie Bond   The Positive Teacher @Abond013
Angie Murphy ConnectED to Learning @RoyalMurph_RRMS
Karen Wood https://karenwoodedu.wordpress.com/ @karenwoodedu
Lindsey Bohler lindseybohler.com @Lindsey_Bohler
Debbie Campbell The Curious Educator @DebraLCamp
Michael McDonough M Squared at the Microphone @m_squaredBHS
Barbara Kurtz bkurtzteachermentor.blogspot.com @BJKURTZ
Stephanie Jacobs www.thisblogiswhy.blogspot.com @MsClassNSession
Michael Todd Clinton Motivated teacher blog  @MotivatedThe
Cathy Jacobs https://cathyjacobs.org/ @cathyjacobs5
Reed Gillespie Mr. Gillespie’s Office @rggillespie
Molly Babcock Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree @MollyBabcock
Lisa Meade Reflections @LisaMeade23

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Child's Reading Level - Part 2

So you assessed your students and you know the level each child is reading at... what do you do now?

Understanding the Reading Level
Most school districts will provide you with the grade level expectancy for beginning, middle, and end of the school year for formal reading assessments such as the DRA or Fountas and Pinnell.  Once you obtain that information, you can begin to see which students are at, above, and below benchmark.
This product can be purchased HERE
I love this product because I can quickly access what characteristics a reader should exhibit for each reading level.  Although running records help me determine when a child should move reading levels, this can be used when you need to see a breakdown of each reading level.

What do I do with this information? 
 I create a document with 4 columns: student's name, special services (IEP, ELL, etc) reading level, and notes.   In the notes column I add specific areas they need work on such as decoding, sight word recognition, applying strategies, or comprehension.

Once I type in the information, I color code student names so I can quickly glance to see where students are at.
Blue = above grade level
Green = at grade level
Yellow = approaching grade level (borderline)
Red = below grade level

How do I plan for instruction?
Keep in mind, reading groups fluctuate and changes should be made at any point in the school year, not just when the DRA is given.  Since you have new information about each child, make sure they are placed in the appropriate group.

I use the comprehension sticks and have students pick a question to answer.  Students enjoy picking their own question.

These cards have questions for before, during, and after reading.    

Both of the products above can be found HERE

The key is to examine any gaps.  Whatever area a child needs to work on, provide extra practice with word work, comprehension, or guided writing activities.   Regardless of how your class scored on the mid-year benchmark, it is never to late to make an instructional change to help your students grow.

I am SO grateful that my school offered to buy a copy of Jennifer Serravallo's book, The Reading Strategies Book.  If you are in need of strategies to uses for a student or reading group, I strongly recommend her book.  The structure of the book is easy to follow along with and find goals, strategies or anchor charts based on a reading level.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Child's Reading Level -- Part 1

Last October I read an article by Fountas and Pinnell.  It was one of those articles that made me want to shout YES YES YES as I read it.  By far, it was my favorite professional read from 2016 because of the authenticity and transparency.  All lead learners and teachers need to read the article titled: A Level is a Teacher's Tool, NOT a Child's Label

My friend, Stacey Riedmiller, from Literacy for Big Kids created this image based off the post:
That statement is powerful.  Levels are meant to be a tool for teachers to plan and refine instruction.  Every grade level has a goal readers must reach by the end of the school year.   Kindergarten students in my county must read a level D by May.  By assessing students three times a year and completing informal assessments such as running records, teachers can gauge where each student is performing and plan for instruction accordingly.   

How do I inform parents?
I Read with My Teacher Today -- sent home every 2 weeks per student.  There are various versions of this sheet for decoding and comprehension.  At this point in the school year most of my students are focusing on decoding with the exception of one reading group.  I like sending home this sheet because it helps illustrate to parents what specific skill their child will continue to work on.  
Purchase HERE (product not created by me)

When I return from winter break, we begin mid year testing for DIBELS and TRC (similar to F & P or DRA).  Although there can be pressure associated with the results of this assessment, keep in mind this is to inform you where each child is performing and specific skills to focus on in relation to comprehension, fluency, or accuracy.   There is so much more to know than the actual level the child is reading at.

Book Choice
As stated by Franki Sibberson, "Choice is choice.  Choice is not within a leveled basket or choice limited to a Lexile range."

Classroom libraries may look different depending on the grade level you teach and what your district or school requires.  I am required to have a leveled library since my county uses the Daily 5 structure.  Instead of placing all emphasis on choosing books from a leveled book bin, I model to students HOW to select  the right fit books, which is a lifelong skill.  Every week students pick 2 books from their bin in addition to 3 picture books from the books I provide.      

My goal as a classroom teacher is to model a love for reading.  As an adult if someone told you your book choice is limited to a specific bin, would you want to continue reading for pleasure?  Probably not.  In addition, I want to maintain a classroom community, not create competition within students or make students doubt themselves.  

My next post will be devoted towards planning instruction for your growing readers.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Each member of #CompelledTribe is publishing a post about their one word for 2017.  Before moving on to 2017, I reflected on 2016 for the past week (#oneword2016 was mindset). 2016 was the toughest year for me personally.  For months I felt there was no light at the end of the tunnel.  I had 0 control over what was going on and I am 2 plane rides away from family.  My mindset guided me to find joy in the little things and have faith that the gift of time would make things better -- and it did.  I learned how strong and resilient I am, which makes me even more eager for 2017.

Big takeaways from 2016:
  • In May I started my masters degree in Literacy.  I am officially halfway done!
  • Began my 2nd year living in North Carolina.
  • Traveled to Hilton Head Island, Asheville, North Myrtle Beach, Cabo San Lucas, Savannah, Charleston and home to Ohio.  Can you tell traveling is a hobby of mine?
  • Went to a co-workers wedding.

Moving forward, my #oneword2017 is gratitude.

Gratitude in 2017
  • Complete the remaining coursework for my masters degree. and graduate in December.  Although full time teaching and working on coursework is a lot to balance, I choose to be grateful that I have the opportunity to study a topic I am so passionate about.
  • Being a member of #CompelledTribe-- members take the time to listen to me, stretch my thinking, provide feedback, and are truly positive leaders.  I am lucky to learn from them.
  • Family.  Although being 2 plane rides away from family comes with challenges, I continue to enjoy any time we can spend together.
  • Friends.  2016 was the year my friends showed me how much they were there for me.  I couldn't be more thankful to those that never left my side, checked in on me, and reminded me to stay strong.  In 2017, I will continue to show gratitude to my friends and make more memories.
  • Students.  As I gain years of teaching experience, I love watching my students grow and continue to maintain connection.  I strive to have fun and continue to do what is best for my students.
2017-- let's make it great!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

For the Love of Literacy

I know, long time no blog post.  I took 2 classes for grad school this semester and it kept me extremely busy.  However, the semester ended last week and I have a break until mid-January.  I wanted to share a story from last week.

In math my class is working on composing and decomposing teen numbers.  Since my class has been talking a lot about kindness and giving back this month, I asked students to illustrate what they would give someone and have the quantity be a teen number.  I also gave my students a sentence starter for a writing component: I want to give (teen number)__________ to ____________.
One example I included is if my friend doesn't like chocolate chip cookies, would it make sense to give that to them?  No.  Even though there are things that we like personally, we need to consider what would make an impression on the person we are giving to.  We brainstormed more ideas of what we could give someone then I sent students off to work.  I figured students would illustrate for their parents or peers, but my prediction was proven wrong pretty quickly.

As I walked around the classroom, I notice students illustrating what they would give me.  That was very sweet, yet I was more surprised to discover what students wanted to give me.  Once the timer went off, we gathered at our carpet to share.  The 5 students who wanted to give something to me, they illustrated books.  I asked a student why they wanted to give me books and they responded by saying, "because you love books".  I followed up by asking what I enjoy about books and students stated that I love reading.

Although this seems like another classroom story, it was a shining moment.  Students see and hear everything we do.  Let your passions shine.  Everyday I make it a priority to give my students time to read as well as allowing them time to book shop.  I also read to my students every day.  All of this shows my students that reading is a lifelong habit and I want it to be fun.  Although December can be a challenging month, slow down and appreciate the small moments with your students.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Making a Positive Impact

For #CompelledTribe this month, our shared blogging topic is about a student we had a positive impact on.  I graduated from college a few years ago so I haven't been in touch with students from decades ago, but I continue to cherish my experience from the past few years.

For the 2015-2016 school year I taught Kindergarten at a new school.  Being a new teacher in the building and district, I did not have any existing relationships with students.  This school year I returned for my 2nd year as a Kindergarten teacher at the same school.  In addition to spending time meeting and getting to know my new group of students, I was excited to see my students from last year.  I wanted to see how their summer was, how much they grew, and their general excitement.

This school year I am fortunate enough to see my students from last year everyday.  I see many of them when I pick up my class from lunch or specials and after school.  One student from last year went through many obstacles.  However, generally a happy kid.  As I see this student everyday they tell me with a smile, "Miss Bond I wish I was still in Kindergarten".  Not because they dislike first grade, but because they enjoyed their time in my classroom.  Hearing this everyday from that student is heart warming because I know I made a positive impact.

When I have a tough day, I sometimes look at my students from last year and realize how far they have come.  The same impact can be made with current or future classes.  I appreciate the small moments with my previous students such as a smile, stopping by every morning just to say hi, asking to read to my current class because they bought a new Mo Willems book, make me a painting over the weekend and handwritten notes.  (All of those are true events) I appreciate the small moments with my students, but I have realized these are the big moments.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

1 Tool to Help K/1 Students During Independent Reading

Last week we launched read to self as part of Daily 5.  Let the stamina building begin!  During read to self, students are expected to stay in 1 spot, read the whole time, read quietly, and get started right away.  Reader's workshop has similar expectations so even if you follow that model, this could work for you.  Some students told me after reading 1 book in their book box that they were all done.  Although it is still early in the school year (we started after labor day) and I need to continue modeling strategies, I wanted to provide my students with a visual that helped them understand the value of re-reading and not being "all done".
LEFT SIDE: Re-read
RIGHT SIDE: Books I am working on

This is nothing fancy, but it really helps students have a place to put their books as they read and get in the habit of re-reading.  Since K/1 students are mostly reading pattern books or guided reading text, a file folder is the perfect size.   One teacher on my team wrote the independent reading expectations on the front as a reminder for students.

Have a great week!