Getting to know our students often starts simply: in the beginning we are focused on learning names, familiarising ourselves with the health alerts, catering for the diagnosed conditions and remembering miscellaneous details. While this is going on, we are trying to determine where our students are at as learners. An equally important (and often more difficult) aspect of getting to know our students is finding out a little bit about them as individuals so that we can make a real connection.
One strategy I use in my classroom is an ongoing strategy called ‘Guess Who?’. It is simple to set up: I distribute a set of questions to each student, they complete the questions and return them to me and I review them. I might use this information to open up a discussion with the student or cater lessons to their particular interests; however, the most powerful way to use the data is in class to build connections between my students.
For example, I might end a lesson segment with a quick round of Guess Who. I will bring out the Guess Who data from a random student and the class has to guess the student to whom I am referring. Depending on the data I have collected, my students might quiz me about the background or interests of the mystery student: “does she have four brothers?” or “is her favourite subject history?” Sometimes I might select one fact and let students stew over it for a few days. For example, students might wonder which one of their classmates has competed at the national titles for ice skating. Another way I use Guess Who is to group students for collaborative work or research (according to their interests or preferred learning styles).
We often rush through the start of a new school year because we are so focused on making a strong start that we neglect to really get to know our students. This is one simple strategy that can help students to feel connected right from the start.