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5 More Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 20, 2013 1:36:00 PM

relationship-driven-classroomLast week, we talked about building relationship-driven classrooms and covered five simple ways for teachers to connect with their students. Because this topic is so important to us, we’ve decided to share five more of Allen Mendler’s tips with you.

5 More Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom

Send home birthday cards
Think about the last time you sifted through your mail and found a handwritten card in the pile of mortgage payments, cell-phone bills and pizza coupons. It felt pretty good, didn’t it? It was nice to know that a friend took the time not only to pick out a card that made him or her think of you, but also that s/he handwrote a message, sealed it, stamped it, and dropped it off at the post office instead of sending you a text message or “Facebooking” you.

Now imagine how your students will feel when they receive a handwritten birthday card from their favorite teacher.

Keep pictures of your family or friends posted in class
In seventh grade, one of my teachers had an entire bulletin board devoted to pictures of her friends and family. Whenever she went to a movie or a concert, she’d save the ticket stub and pin it to the board; over time, we got to know her friends’ names, what they did for a living, what their talents were, and what our teacher did over the weekend.

Every Monday morning we’d arrive to find that the bulletin board contained a new piece of ephemera. After a while, we developed a Monday morning ritual centered on the bulletin board: Our teacher would tell us about her weekend, grab pictures off the wall, pass them around, and ask us to tell her about our weekends.

Reach out to a student who rarely speaks up in class
In graduate school, I took a course on Romantic poetry. Out of the 15 students enrolled in the course, I was by far the quietest. I saved my opinions and “close readings” for the two-page responses we submitted each week. My second response essay was returned with a personal note from the professor that said, “I’ve been enjoying your responses; they offer a unique perspective and I think our class discussions would benefit from your opinions. I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but I’d like to encourage you to share these insights in the upcoming weeks.”

This simple gesture not only impacted my self-esteem, but inspired me to contribute.

Think aloud
Share how you work through ideas and conflicts aloud, especially when choices aren’t clear. This works with both academic and interpersonal conflict. Say, for example, that you hear students using inappropriate language, you might say,

“Whoa, when I hear words that sound disrespectful, there is a part of me that wants to argue and yell, and another equally strong part that wants to try to understand why it is that we sometimes forget where we are and what is appropriate. It’s upsetting to hear this kind of language, but I think it would be more productive to get back to the lesson.”

Engage Students in a How-Can-I-Help-You? Approach
We’ve mentioned this one before, but think it’s worth repeating: When your students aren’t focusing on what they are reading or when they submit careless work it is bothersome—but many of us are bothered for the wrong reasons. We’re bothered because we’ve taken it personally; we’re bothered because WE wouldn’t have done it that way.

When you engage your students in a how-can-I-help-you approach, your frustration manifests through care and respect. Next time your student disrupts class or fails to turn in assignments, catch the student on the way to lunch and say, “Hey, I’m worried about X. Am I seeing this correctly? I want to do everything I can to help you. Do you have any ideas?”



15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: effective teacher, impact on students, improving academic performance, effective feedback, Relationship-Driven Classroom

Teachers should give themselves permission to laugh.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Oct 8, 2011 8:46:00 AM

teachers can use humor in classroom for positive learning environmentHappy October. You’ve made it through at least a month of school. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, all holidays involving too much sugar, are just around the corner. This is a great time to remember to laugh. Humor can be an effective component of classroom management.

Teachers need to laugh. And laugh a lot. It’s more important than ever, as more constraints and conditions are being placed on the profession. A brand new study from Oxford University shows that pain tolerance is much higher after a good endorphin-releasing belly laugh. Several books have been written about humor in the classroom—and researchers are studying its impact on students.  

The author of “All Joking Aside: Five Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom,” Michael E. Skinner, says “Students learn and retain more when humor is used... students exposed to lectures with humor outperformed their peers who were taught the same material without humor.”* Skinner’s findings are based on research at the college level, but why can’t it apply to younger students? Isn’t it just common sense that children will relax, and therefore arguably gain more from a lesson when the atmosphere is light and breezy?

When you consider the research from Vanderbilt University that shows you can actually burn 10-40 calories per day if you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes, well… that’s all the incentive anyone needs to laugh it up. Live Strong regularly gives us all kinds of wellness tips, of which laughter is a big part.

There was a time when teachers prided themselves on never losing “control” of their classrooms, and never, ever smiling before Christmas. They were trained to rule with a firm hand. To many students, teachers were the sound that all adults made on the “Charlie Brown” TV specials. But gone are the days when glowering teachers were the norm. Educationally Impolite, a group of teacher/performers, knows that humor opens hearts and minds.

Today, a third grade teacher in Michigan routinely takes a few moments after lunch to ask a student to relay a funny story to “get the giggles out” so the class can focus on the business of learning. As the year goes on, students discern what kinds of stories and jokes are appropriate or inappropriate to share.

Boy’s Life magazine continues to do a great job of offering grade-level jokes in each issue.

Last week, TeachHub posted the Top 12 Favorite TV Teachers. Admittedly, we can’t all be as charismatic and loved as the Miss Crabtrees and Gabe Kotters of television. But teachers can at least try to inject humor whenever they can, to connect with a student, to make a point, or to relieve tension before a tough test. It works.

So, go ahead…start releasing those wonderful endorphins in the classroom. Why not? It may even help boost your students’ academic performance.

For more fun ideas on how to manage your classroom effectively, download the free Guide to Classroom Management below, now!

*Skinner, M. E., and Fowler, R. E. (2010). All Joking Aside: Five Reasons to Use Humor in the Classroom. Education Digest, 76(2), 19-21.


           Download our Free Classroom Management G



Tags: humor in the classroom, impact on students, Michael Skinner, famous TV teachers, age appropriate jokes, laughter, improving academic performance, classroom management, teachers

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