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3rd Grade Teacher from Georgia

Wow! The wheels are turning

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Wow! The wheels are turning as you have motivated me to use your ideas as an inspiration for new lessons in my classroom. As a third grade teacher, I am intrigued by any assignment that helps me connect to my students. I love the questions and the ideas of how to listen to the students, especially of how to really let them know you are listening. I am learning that the more I get to know my students, the better I can teach them. By getting to know them, I can figure out their learning style and the what works for them. I want to work on my list of questions for my survey. I also love the letter writing idea as a creative writing lesson. Any ideas of how I can best implement these or other ideas into a diverse third grade classroom with little parent support?

Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

Hats Off!

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A great way to understand the student. Not only it will help the kid with studies but also help parents in understanding their kids really well. For me such type of survey should be done by every school.

Great Survey - Import all the questions into your Socrative Room

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Hi Elena,

I really enjoyed your post and the 20 questions in your survey. I created a Socrative activity from all the questions so the community could use with their classroom technology.

If anyone has Socrative, you can import the 20 questions into your room with this code SOC-451661.


Teacher, Writer, and Artist


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On the first day of school I asked my students how they learn the best and what they’re good at. It was a question more for me, I said, but would eventually be good for you, too. You know, once we get to work.

A few of them huffed and dropped their heads on their desks. That’s the power of the phrase … get to work.

I had a yellow legal pad out and a pen ready to write. One of the nicest things you can do for someone is to shut up and listen to them … and even write down what they say while they’re watching you.

They were watching. I got the impression no one had ever asked them those questions.

Lazlo said he loves vampires. Nesbit said he’s good at sleeping late. Brainerd said he wanted me to quit talking so fast.

I made the time-out sign with my hands and said … Oh-kay. Why don’t we start all over again.

Instructional Effectiveness Specialist/Chicago Public Schools

Letter Writing to Students

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Great post - I like the sound of the homework assignment and appreciate the questions you shared about how you got to know your own students. It reminded me of an activity I created when I was teaching HS English.

On the Friday of the first week of school, I'd spend an hour sharing a five-paragraph introductory letter I'd written to my students while asking them to reply in kind. I'd set the purpose by telling students that I wanted to get to know each as an individual and not just as "that kid that sits in the third row in my fifth period."

I would show them the first paragraph of my letter (the introduction) on the overhead. I'd read it aloud (5-7 sentences) and then allow 3-5 minutes for clarifying questions. This paragraphed included my date of birth (as intimidating as that seemed when I was first teaching), my place of birth, and the different places I'd lived. After answering their questions, I'd ask the students to take the next 7-9 minutes to respond in kind to me.

The process repeats for paragraphs 2-5. These of second paragraph is family. Theme of third paragraph is hobbies. Fourth paragraph: short and long term goals. Fifth paragraph: conclusion (What do I need to know about you to be a great teacher for you this year? What advice do you have for me about how to be a great teacher for this entire class?).

I can say without reservation this was one of the best activities I ever designed. You learn a tremendous amount about your students in reading those letters, and they can serve as the baseline for future conversations should the student struggle later in the year. I would often pull these letters out when having one-on-one conversations with kids in different contexts.

An added bonus is that by the end of the period, every student has written five paragraphs. Showing them that if they can do that on the first week of school, it's not going to be a surprise when I'm asking for papers of greater length as the year progresses. You can also choose to have the students read each others letters as a way to get to know each other. A nice, simple task that shows that writing isn't just "for a grade," but for real, authentic purposes.

A *GREAT* way to learn about students and build class culture.

Classroom community

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As a high school teacher I have always struggled with getting to know my students, especially if I have to write copious letters of rec due to teaching mostly seniors and juniors. Along with that I have also always had trouble with how teachers and students are separated by, and to use the drama terms, "the fourth wall". (Us and them instead of we). I wanted to get to know my students more, build community, give them ownership of the classroom, engender a sense of self worth and value etc.

I watched a TED video about a woman by the name of Candy Chang from New Orleans who turned community space into interactive spaces of community expression and it inspired me. (video can be found here Since I think the use of "decoration" in the classroom is wasteful, boring, an inefficient use of space for what should be true educational environment, I took her idea and applied it in the classroom. My bulletin boards have become community space for the dreams, aspirations, and problems of my students, the experience has been transformative. This has not only been enlightening for me but for many of my students to have an accepting community forum for expression that transcends the boundary of what is "teacher" and what is "student" and more on what is "ours".

In a truly student centered education, the classroom space is not the "teachers" but the community of learners that reside inside of those walls.

Love this!

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I think I'm going to use these with my kids! What you are talking about is something I whole-heartedly believe in: helping kids find an emotional and social connection to school that makes them WANT to learn!

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