Our students all live rich and interesting lives outside the classroom, but often we only see one side of them. There are lots of simple ways teachers can connect with students and learn more about them, but if you’re looking for a new approach, we’ve got one thanks to Diane Mierzwik’s book, Quick and Easy Ways to Connect With Students and Their Parents.
Creating a “You Are a Star” bulletin board is one method Mierzwik uses to learn more about her students, congratulate them, and highlight accomplishments that take place outside of the classroom. Here’s how it works.
Subscribe to the city newspaper
You may not live in the same city as your school, but you can still get your hands on a copy of the monthly city newspaper. Often these publications highlight sporting events, theatre productions and community-service projects that our students are involved in. The school newsletter and newspaper are also good sources of information.
Post the clipping on the “You Are a Star” bulletin board
When you find an article in the paper, clip it out and make a copy of it. Create a bulletin board in class with the heading, “You are a Star.” Post the clipping to the bulletin board with the student’s name highlighted. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just post it and wait for students to notice.
Write a short note of congratulations
When you hand back papers, give the student the actual clipping and attach a handwritten note congratulating the student. You’ll find that some students are shy and will simply accept the clipping, but others will want to talk about the event, activity or organization more. This is an opportunity for you—and the rest of the students—to learn more about the student.
Ask for students to volunteer clippings and pictures
After you start posting events, odds are that other students will approach you with something they have done so you can add it to the board. Post them, even if they aren’t “timely” and encourage all of your students to bring in their own artifacts for posting.
Use this information to help students make choices in class
The “Star” bulletin board is not only a great confidence builder, it’s a treasure-trove of information you can use to help guide students’ choices in class. Many times, teachers leave an assignment open-ended so that students can take it in a direction that suits their interests. Of course, we’re then faced with, “I don’t know what to do.” If you know your students’ interests, though, you can help guide their choices.
Something to keep in mind
If you have trouble finding articles that feature your students, you can still create a “You Are a Star” board; you’ll just have to take a different approach. Start with students writing a journal entry about something they have done extremely well outside of school. This can be followed by a writing activity that asks students to share their “star” moment as if it appeared in a newspaper. Use background paper that looks like a newspaper (or use this free newspaper generator app) and leave a space for the student’s entry. After they write their account, students can add a photo to go with their article. The teacher can select one to post to get the ball rolling.