It is impossible to help one without understanding them.
With many children in a class, educators often face this problem of not being able to help some students and keep going round and round unable to find the root of problem. It is important for educators to understand their students in order to help them with their educational needs. Mentioned below is a list of detailed strategies that educators can use to know their students.
1. Talk to the students. The purpose of this is to initiate communication between you and the students. A teacher is not going to learn anything from their students if the student does not want to communicate with the teacher. The best and simple way is to begin with verbal communication to get to know your students. Talking to your students can range from a conversation about their dog to something as simple as asking how their day is going. By talking the students personality starts to show through in the way they express themselves verbally and non-verbally. When a student responds to you verbally there are also nonverbal cues the teacher can take, like the body language, the expressions the pauses and more such. All these things signify the students’ personality and behavior. Is the student open and using hand gestures, confident in what they say, or maybe uncomfortable speaking out loud. Based on just talking to the students the teacher can decide various teaching strategies to help his/her students.
This is also a two way street if the student shares something about themselves the teacher should share a little bit about themselves in order to establish a connection. An example I found on-line was a teacher that had 6th graders that were scared to be in a new school with the older 8th graders. She told a funny story about her dog that is afraid of everything. This alleviated some of the students’ apprehension and established a connection with the teacher making her human also. It is important for a teacher to establish a comfortable verbal rapport with the students so they feel comfortable expressing their concerns to me as well as participate in class.
2. Observing your students is another strategy for understanding students. The teacher can observe how the students interact with each other. This is important because the teacher can see where the divides are or who does not get along with whom. Observing behavior is also a way to survey student’s personalities. The more outgoing students will probably be more spirited; the introvert students will probably be quieter. Observing how the students interact can help a teacher plan a seating chart. For example teachers can create seating charts by reading level and observed behavior. She knows who gets along with whom. You do not want people that do not get along sitting next to each other or too many extroverts sitting together because they might feed off each other’s energy and cause a distraction. Observed behavior is also important to understanding students.
3. To understand your students is to look at their past school records or Individual Education Plan (IEP). This helps the teacher project what the academic performance might be for the class. A teacher can see what subjects his/her individual students need help with. For example if a student received an A in math, but a lower grade in English, the teacher could guess that the student is left brain dominant, good at logic but needs help with reading and writing. Looking at the IEP helps the teacher understand what help the student might need and what is currently being done to help the special needs student. Looking at the student’s academic records helps the teacher understand what they may or may not need help with academically. You not only need to understand the student’s behavior, interests, and motivation, but understand them academically to be able to help them understand the subjects.
4. The next strategy is to give the students a survey that asks questions about themselves. This is an interesting way to get your students speak of themselves. A teacher could had it out the first or second week of school in order to see what the students are interested in, their background, and other things that you could incorporate into lessons. This is also a way for students that are not real vocal to express who they are in writing. A survey is also a hard copy that you can refer back to as opposed to talking or observation. A survey can also tell you what the student’s motivation is or their interests that you can bring into a lesson so they get excited about the lesson too. By giving a survey it shows that as a teacher you take the time to create something tangible to get to know your students.
5. Another way to know your students is to get involved in extracurricular activities. Most students that participate in after-school activities do so because they are interested in the topic, whether it is kick ball or craft time. You can lead the student in an activity that they like rather than a subject that they have no interest in. Sometimes when a teacher leads students in a fun activity the student may get a feeling of comfort and understanding figure with the teacher and not just a grown up that stands in front of the class. It makes teacher more approachable. An example I came across online is that at some school there are various student intramural teams that meet at lunch and after school, but the teachers also have an intramural team that plays against the students. The students love it because they get to do something fun with their teachers, and possibly the fun subject can be reflected back to something done in the classroom. Teachers can be role models for students outside of the classroom.
6. Get to know your students by having a bulletin board in the classroom that features a student of the week. Each week a different student gets to bring in pictures as well as a list of their five favorite things and three things they want to do in the future. The purpose of this is that each student can feel special for the week, and at the same time the teacher and the students can get to know the student better. I think it is good that students can bring things into the classrooms that represent themselves. It is also another form of expression. The student is not describing themselves verbally or through writing, but through visuals.
Another way to use the bulletin board strategy is to ask students to get the bulletin board decorated by a different student each week or adjust the number of days according to the total strength of the class. This decoration is simply from the student be it the pictures that make them happy or the drawings that they make. The idea is to enable students to express and create an inclusive environment.
7. The last strategy for the list is an icebreaker game on the first or second day of class. The purpose of this is you get to know your students, your students get to know you, and your students get to know each other. If you get to know your students, chances are that you will understand them better. Also if students get to know you and each other they might feel more comfortable in the classroom and subsequently more willing to participate. Also, it is harder for a student to act up if they know the teacher has an interest in them rather than just another face sitting in the back row. The idea is to get to know every student and to make them feel like they matter.
What strategies do you follow?