This past year, I discovered some awesome secrets for building a fast rapport with my class. I believe that the key to all academic success lies within the teacher's ability to connect with his or her students. When I saw these tricks in action, I couldn't help but share them!
Tip #1: Establish Firm Boundaries
This one has always seemed counter-intuitive to me. I've always started out my school year with three easy to follow rules: Respect Yourself, Respect Others, and Respect Materials. I had several seasoned teachers tell me that in 4th grade and up, you shouldn't have too many rules. I noticed that several of my coworkers had no rules posted in their rooms at all. I started thinking maybe rules over the age of 10 might just be an implicit practice.
However after two rough years out of three, I decided I needed a radical change, and that my rules weren't working as smoothly as I had hoped. This last year I started out telling my class that I had a lot of rules to follow, and I paraphrased Ron Clark's The Essential 55.
"I figured the kids would be irritated with too many rules and resist them." -My 1st thoughts on The Essential 55 Rules.
However, most of the kids seemed to have a sense of relief that there were rules in place to keep them safe. I explained that a lot of the rules would help them make friends and get jobs easier in the future, and they seemed to revel in that idea! They were so into rules, that they started asking me to read the rule book on days that I would forget. After a couple weeks of daily "rule chats" during morning meetings, I noticed the class was behaving better than normal 10 year olds. They were respectful, polite, and sometimes even charming!
Tip #2: Talk About and Use Social Media
I had no idea how huge this concept was until I actually tried it out. Now, I did have a handful of tweens who were not allowed to use social media, but for the most part when I mentioned "facebook, twitter, instagram or snapchat", the class was all ears! I could relate any subject to social media, and I would have their full attention. It was like magic! Even the kids who weren't allowed to use social media in the classroom, knew about all the platforms because their parents and older siblings were on them frequently.
Snapchat and twitter tags were their favorite things to talk about as they saw facebook and instagram for "old people". One of my former students had over 6,000 twitter followers because he commented a lot on soccer games. Another of my students communicated with her cousins in Mexico over snapchat because international texts/phone calls are too expensive. ALL the kids loved making up hashtags, and I would get a lot of giggles making up my own during lessons. On the playground my students would say "can you snapchat this?". They just thought it was the coolest thing ever, and the best thing was being able to connect with students who normally had an "attitude". As soon as they knew I had a snapchat, and that they could be on it with a permission slip, I was suddenly relate-able to them!
As for my parent permission slips, I had a separate one for each form of social media, and I let parents know that I had no intention of doing close ups of their child's face- I was just interested in "action shots" to share with my online teacher community. I also told parents that I would approve everything that got put up (in the tween age group-- I think parents just want to know that you're in control and you're checking on everything). This seemed to ease the parents minds, and I only had a couple of parents against social media due to personal or religious beliefs.
Tip #3: Add Music to Lessons
Ok, so I'm not Ron Clark! I can't dance or sing, and I'm horrible with song lyrics. I can however research pop music, and add it to a playlist. This I can do! I let my students listen to music throughout the day (especially when I see a spike in poor behavior: it's great leverage, and it calms everyone down a bit)
These are the main events I use it for:
Before School Prep (I play music, and kids come into help me)
Transition Times (Between Subjects or Activities)
Games (scoot games that transition to music)
Reward Time for Meeting Goals
Lesson Warm Ups
During Clean Up Time
Kids LOVE music. They REALLY love it, and they will bend over backwards to hear their favorite songs. There are some things I learned that don't work however, and here is my short list.
Tweens usually don't like 1. your favorite music (because yuck! old people), 2. Kid Bop anything, 3.when you don't let them choose 4. if they cannot dance or move a little bit 5. too much of the same thing.
So in order for this to work, you need to find popular music on a big playlist, and let them choose it. With nasty lyrics, it can be challenging, but I found a somewhat easy solution. I search for clean song lists on streaming sites like Spotify!
Here's a screenshot of my Spotify. For $10/month I get unlimited music streaming, and I can usually find everything I'm looking for... I most often download other people's playlists-- like this one called: clean pop music even your kids will listen to. It's 40 hours of music! Depending on my student's preference, I will take their favorite songs, and save it to a new list.
On the side you can see that I created my own list called "School Days" There are songs in there that I know I can play for kids without issues. Remember to listen to all songs before you play them!
Extra Tween Power Moves:
Talk about the latest movies with them.
Talk about their favorite TV shows.
Be silly with a sock puppet.
Have a class mascot.
Bring food into lessons.
Give them a piece of gum for no reason.
Teach them a new handshake or dance move.
Get emoji anything.
Share stickers with them.
Set up an "art table" for lunch/recess.
Get a class pet.
Wear a fake tattoo.
I hope these tips worked for you! Leave me questions in the comments!