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You must get to know your students at the start of the year.

Not only will this ensure a smooth beginning to lessons that will undeniably be awkward, but it will also create a mutual sense of respect and understanding from the get-go. Learning about your students also increases something called group cohesiveness. Group cohesion is a bond between people, in this instance, students and you, their teacher, which fosters a sense of ease, cooperation, and support.

Here is a selection of ways to learn about your students, giving you the optimal teaching environment:

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Learning names

There are plenty of methods that you can use to learn your students’ names. This is one of the first things you should do so you can easily identify who you’re talking to. For something fun, you could:

  • Play tag (safely!), where every time a student tags another student, they must say who they’re tagging.
  • Play name games (try throwing a beach ball around the room, and students say the name of the name they’re throwing it to).

Simpler alternatives include name tags (which you can get students to personalize) and addressing students more frequently.

Learning mutual goals in the classroom

Once you’ve got the basics covered, try instigating in-depth conversation. Ask your students what some of their academic goals are for the year. This encourages a rapport of openness between teachers and students and gives you an insight into what each person would like to achieve. You can tailor lessons to suit your students, which they’ll appreciate.

Identify your students’ learning types

People learn in different ways. For example:

  • Some learn through visual aids.
  • Others learn through physical activities.
  • Some like to learn through auditory methods like podcasts or simply listening.

It would be best if you created a questionnaire for each student to fill out their learning preferences. This will make them feel like you are catering to them personally and show them that you care about them as individuals rather than addressing the class’s needs as a whole. You can also design your lessons and activities to suit as many different learning types as possible.

Share personal stories and traits

This is one of the best ways to get to know your students on a level that isn’t purely academic. It can be done in a variety of ways.

  • Try, for example, the popular game ‘Two Truths, One Lie,’ which is a fun and easy way to bring out your students’ sense of humor.
  • Otherwise, get them to reveal three things they like or the thing that they’re most proud of. It’s a sure way to bring out laughs and sincerity in equal measure.
  • Other fun things to learn about students include their birthdays and heights – these are easy ways to get them up out of their seats and moving about the classroom, as well as encouraging interaction!

Call their families

Within the first few weeks of the new school year, you should aim to call each student’s family where possible. Doing so not only builds that crucial relationship between parents and teachers that is often neglected but also allows you to learn more about your students that they may not otherwise be comfortable telling you yet. Of course, remember that you shouldn’t blindly presume that situations at home are perfect, nor should you probe into issues if the student and family wish not to tell you. Essentially, be mindful of your approach.

No matter what, icebreakers will always have a stigma of being awkward and uncomfortable. But as their teacher, if you show ease around them, the students will also feel at ease.