Time and time again, studies have shown that healthy relationships are one of the prime building blocks of successful schools. Solid student-teacher relationships lead to more positive attitudes about the classroom for both students and teachers and academic success and better long-term health for students. Even the presence of supportive relationships between administrators and teachers affect the way students thrive.
This fall, relationship-building in schools has looked a little different, to say the least. Over the last few months, we asked ASCD’s educator community on Twitter how they’ve connected with students during the coronavirus pandemic. Read on for a crowdsourcing of ideas on what it looks like to build community at a distance. As school counselor Phyllis Fagell wrote back in May, “[kids are] not going to remember what they learned during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, but they will remember who helped them get through it.”
1. Hold space for conversations in smaller groups or one-on-one.
Take time just 2 talk 2 students, ask if they’re ok, talk about the day to day. This builds a foundation with students. Some argue that takes away from instruction. W/out it most students won’t care what you have to say. Make learning matter by letting students know they matter.
— Jodi Zeis (@mrszteachesme) December 8, 2020
“Welcome and wave” a quick virtual wave with cameras on, then they can turn cameras off for the rest of class and respond by voice or chat. Google form check-ins where they share how they are doing and I follow up for emails/chat/talk. Stu stay on zoom after session to chat.
— Dr. Jamie Alarcon (@altedfrommybed) September 5, 2020
Using advisory meetings once a week over Zoom to meet with students in smaller groups. Teachers/admins called the family of each student in their group to introduce and tell about the program.
— Jonathan Ross (@JonathanG_Ross) September 5, 2020
Silly and serious questions to allow more direct vulnerability in small groups (8-12 Ss for 10-15 mins) while the whole class (42 for 30mins) plays a game and has show/tell where others affirm/ask. This is to start the year 😆 Following for others’ ideas 💡
— Daniel Scott (@mr5scott) September 5, 2020
Personal invites for tutorial, weekly reflections about learning & Social Emotional aspects of life, & calling home when I don’t see/hear a student very often during online class meetings. Silly or light sign-off questions really get them talking 😁
— 𝒶𝓂𝑜𝓇 (@AnaEMorales) September 5, 2020
I make sure to greet each student every morning before our morning meeting. I teach ELA and math in small groups in order to make sure everyone is recognized every day. I’m also holding more targeted time with my students in smaller groups for reading and math intervention.
— Pam Cadena (@pamlc1) September 11, 2020
2. Write (literally or figuratively).
In Teaching to Empower, we write about journal ‘writing’ for building relationships. Now, we suggest doing this online, by-hand & sending a photo, & recording & sending. Creating prompts that build on personal e.g., Ways I’m coping with stress & trying to staying healthy- help!
— Debbie Zacarian (@DebbieZacarian) December 8, 2020
Some snail mail magic! In-person students writing to introduce themselves to virtual students and enclosing an addressed envelope for them to write back. (Supporting the @USPS too? Total perk.)
Also @EVERFI’s Compassion Project is FIRE.
— Cheyenne Walent (@cheywalent) September 12, 2020
3. Focus on students’ interests and input.
Every morning our Ts start the day with @responsiveclass morning meetings for our 4th/5th graders. They enjoy building those relationships and it creates a strong SEL foundation so the Ts can build on academics. The Ts also see positive behavior b/c Ss are being valued & heard.
— Kaitlin Curran (@KaitlinCurran2) December 8, 2020
I would say for me, it was all about tuning into what the kids liked and what they were into to try to make learning as fun as possible. Google form surveys are also a good choice – academic and personal wise. And the “Things I wish my teacher knew” questions regularly.
— Jessie @The Compass Rose Teacher (@mrs_chislett) December 8, 2020
I did a cooking show. I made my favorite recipes & about them as I cooked/baked. I took requests from kids/parents. I shared my recipes so they could try it. (Granted I did teach CompSci thru this) Cooking and food is always so powerful & kids were glued!
— Lily H. Turula (@curatecuriosity) September 11, 2020
4. Ask questions.
I agree with the previous comments. I start class with a “chat check-in” where I ask a question and they respond for attendance. I also do a weekly google form check-in where I ask wellness questions, get feedback on the class and my teaching, etc. I then follow up as needed.
— Arika Mareck (@ArikaMareck) December 8, 2020
I ask my 11th graders for recommendations on topics like favorite snacks, movies, or who I should follow on social media. I record video feedback on their essays so they hear my support & see my encouragement. They can redo assignments, & there are due dates but no deadlines.
— Megan Pankiewicz (@MeganPank) December 8, 2020
5. Play games.
Taking time to play games virtually with students: Would You Rather, Scavenger Hunts, Turn Your Camera On If You… I also have a This or That question for students to answer in the chat after every break. Builds relationships and helps me know they’re back and engaged.
— Shannon Szymczak (@bookemshanno) December 8, 2020
Using challenges from Taskmaster – UK comedy show!! So much fun and they allow their creativity to shine!
— Trish Cislak (@trishcislak) December 8, 2020
Connecting with students at one to one level is very important in these virtual classes. Engaging them in fun activities like riddles, tongue twisters and ESL games. Informally, visible video is a 🤩way to personalize interaction. Formally I take regular google form feedback👍
— Jagriti Gehlout (@JollyJagriti) September 11, 2020
For developing student teacher relationships teachers are running fun games online such as bingo and quizzes. Breakout rooms for student to student connections and teacher-student one to one 5 minute chats.
— Rachel Cannon (@educannonball) September 11, 2020
6. Make it visual.
Given our new & improving skill with video communication… Don’t create a print bulletin if you could make a video instead. Be real. Smile, talk as if the parent, student or colleague is right in front of you. Hearing a friendly voice & seeing a face w/o a mask is appreciated!
— Cindy Dickie (@DickieCindy) September 6, 2020
When taking attendance, I ask a get to know you question. I’m making videos to ensure it feels like their teacher is there with them. I make calls to families to connect with students. #zoom #breakout rooms #morningmeeting #flashdances #braingym #maslowbeforebloom
— Heather McMullen (@Heather39431612) September 12, 2020
7. Set aside time for students to connect with each other.
Transitions to allow students to enter the class and be all there with the group. Energizers to learn about each other in a fun way and check ins to monitor students feelings and social emotional health ❤️
— Tara Rose (@teacherfirst73) September 5, 2020
Purposefully planning icebreakers, group games, brain breaks, and check-ins, as well as voice comments and videos on Seesaw. Theme day discussions – Motivational Monday, Tell Me Something Good Tuesday, Would You Rather Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday, Flashback Friday.
— Gina Freeman (@GinaFreeman79) September 5, 2020
I teach international students who are in different provinces in China; we take “ get to know” breaks, where the students talk about the place they live in, their favourite outdoor activity, causes they identify with, they even show off their pets to me and I show them mine.
— Learner/Teacherfor life! (@TeachMe4Life) September 5, 2020
I open my meet 10 mins early for students to chat with each other. Fridays are read aloud with talk time among each other.
— Amy Turnbaugh (@amyt714) September 5, 2020
8. Extend relationship-building spaces to teachers and families, too.
As a K-5 instructional coach, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with families and students by assisting them with tech. Families can join my Google Meet during the first hour of #distancelearning and/or throughout the day for Chromebook and Canvas support😊
— Tika Epstein (@tikaee) September 7, 2020
Staying on the call, video on, after the PD sessions are over allows participants to have the 1:1 conversations(w/peers present) that they need. It begins to build a network & a cohort of Ts who see themselves in others, their fears, struggles, and successes.
— Susan Totaro (@SusanTotaro) September 5, 2020
What other relationship strategies have worked for you this fall? Let us know in the comments.