An easy way to build individual relationships with students

As teachers, we all want to establish strong connections with students and give them individual attention on a daily basis. But that’s a pretty broad goal that can be hard to put into action, especially considering how many other priorities are vying for our attention. How can we make time for individual connections? How can we ensure we’re dividing our time fairly?

If you find that you only have time to pay one-on-one attention to kids when they’re doing something wrong, this strategy is for you! You can break out of the rut of giving only negative attention to challenging students and overlooking the kids who usually make good choices.

FREE! Daily Connections: an easy way to build individual relationships with your students

Here’s what you do: divide your class list into fifths. On your Daily Connections sheet, write in one group of student names for each day of the week. So, if you have 25 kids in your class, you’ll have 5 targeted kids for Monday, 5 for Tuesday, and so on.

Each day, look at your list and see which kids you’ll want to give extra and attention and make individual connections. You could even pray for those students or think positive thoughts for them, if you choose.

When the class is working independently, spend a little more time giving feedback to those kids. Compliment them on things you might otherwise overlook because you’re so busy. Observe them more closely when they’re working, and smile or give a thumbs up to encourage them to keep at it. At dismissal, ask them about their plans that evening or weekend.

FREE! Daily Connections: an easy way to build individual relationships with your students

You might also use that day to spend a little more time reading through and responding to those 5 kids’ writing assignments. You can learn a lot by what students write in their journals! Take the time to write back, asking questions and making comments. You can also make a note for yourself about things kids have written so you’ll remember to bring it up in conversation (“Hey, how was cheerleading practice last night?”)

Of course, students should never know that you have a system for connecting with them! The list is only for your reference, and you certainly don’t want to ignore the other kids.

The goal is to have a routine that makes it easier for you to make sure you’re sending a critical message to each and every student through the smallest of gestures: You matter. I see you, I acknowledge you as a unique individual person in this classroom, and I care about you. 

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rebecca Tabb January 1, 2015 at 2:44 pm

This is a great idea. I would probably print it out and stick on the clipboard I carry around. Then I could check off as I go throughout the week. Another alternative would be just to print out a roster each week and check off each name as you go through the week and talk to them. That way you wouldn’t have to worry about if your kids for the day are present that day and you can just grab a few minutes with whoever is first in line on the way to lunch or standing next to you in line at the restroom, etc.

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2 Angela Watson January 1, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I love the idea of the using the roster, Rebecca, and also keeping the list on a clipboard which you carry everywhere. So smart and I think it would work really well!

For me, it was helpful to have a set system of the same kids each day because it kind of trained me to be on the lookout for those kids on that day. It got to the point where I’d know, okay, today’s Wednesday, and the 5 kids for Wednesday popped into my mind without even looking at the list!

When I first started doing this, I just divided a regular class roster into sections. Then I realized that there were some kids that were a little needier than others or harder to make connections with, and it helped me to spread them out throughout the week. I also tried to group best friends together–since I knew both kids would probably be hanging out together at lunch, recess, etc., it was easier to find them out and start fun conversations.

Let me know how what you end up trying. I don’t think you can go wrong with any variation of this system and your kids are going to benefit tremendously!

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3 Debi Willsie January 1, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I really like this idea. I am making the switch from a behavior chart to not chart when we return in a few days… The same students were always “good” or “bad” colors, so it wasn’t really accomplishing anything for this group of students. Printing out a connections sheet and having it on my clipboard will help me to reach out to my kiddos in a positive way. Plus, I can group them so that I connect with a variety of students each day… My roster has grouped students together who are very “energetic”… This will allow me to mix them in with my more studious/rule following students so that I can touch bases with them for positives, not just to move a clip… It’s going to be an adjustment for us all!

Thank you… Can’t wait for the next reveal ☺️

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4 Angela Watson January 1, 2015 at 7:14 pm

Hi, Debi! Thanks for your patience with the next project…I am just as anxious as you guys to get things rolling along!

Regarding the behavior charts…I agree most kids either stay on green all day and get no attention, or get to red by 9 am! I commend you for letting go of a system that wasn’t working for you and starting fresh!

I wrote a post awhile back about how to change routines and procedures mid-year and explain to the kids why it’s happening. Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes!

http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2012/01/changing-routines-and-procedures-mid-year.html

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5 Debi Willsie January 1, 2015 at 11:56 pm

Thank you for the link… We start back on Tuesday and this is going to be part of my morning meeting. I am optimistic that with a discussion about how they have grown this year, my second graders will be eager to pack the behavior chart away. I’m working on a new calendar for them, with a place for them to write something they’ve learned each day instead of what their behavior was… I will keep one to so we can learn how to reflect on our day. Hopefully, this will be something that the parents will be able to use to discuss their child’s day, instead of the standard one word answer… “How was school today?” “Good.”

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6 Angela Watson January 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm

What a great idea to have your kids reflect in writing about what they learned. I think it will definitely help facilitate conversations at home.

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7 Hannah January 1, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Thanks for sharing this idea! It’s a great way to consciously connect with every student. I would even like to challenge myself to incorporate parent communication whether a short email or a quick note home.

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8 Angela Watson January 1, 2015 at 7:15 pm

That is a GREAT idea, Hannah! I love the idea of making an extra effort not just for kids, but for their families, too.

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9 Ms. Amber January 1, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Thank you so much for great tip! I have been thinking of a way to connect with my students for this new year. I’m brainstorming now on parent involvement thanks so much for this creative idea :)

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10 Angela Watson January 1, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Oh, perfect, so glad the idea helped! Maybe you can do what Hannah in the comment above you is doing, and use this system to help with parent involvement, too.

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11 Helen Moses January 1, 2015 at 5:19 pm

I like the idea of the system to get around to each student and I was already thinking of when I would check in..might even be around already scheduled activities for my different groups. Thanks for having sheets for varying numbers. This will come in handy!

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12 Angela Watson January 1, 2015 at 7:18 pm

You’re welcome! I like your approach of creating a routine where you always make an extra effort to connect with kids. It will become habitual much more easily that way, because you will naturally just delve into conversations, etc. during that time of day.

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13 Amy Sharpe January 1, 2015 at 7:17 pm

I love this idea and would love to adapt it to high school. With on 45 minutes with each class, I’m thinking it will be difficult to connect with 5 kids in one class period considering how needy my classes are. I do have so many students who won’t function unless I’m standing right next to them and directing them through the assignment. Do you think it would be okay to spread a class out over 2 weeks?

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14 Angela Watson February 11, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Absolutely! Great idea.

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15 Cynthia B. January 1, 2015 at 7:48 pm

I love this idea of keeping up with my students. I work with special needs students that all need that extra help. The teacher next door and I share students. We each teach every subject except science & social studies. She teaches science and I teach social studies. This will help me keep up with both groups of students. I’m looking forward to hearing about the next great idea you have for us. I left feedback on tpt for this great product.

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16 Angela Watson January 3, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Thanks so much for leaving feedback, Cynthia! I’m glad this will be useful for you.

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17 Meg January 2, 2015 at 11:13 am

Love this idea! I want to start as soon as I return back to school on Jan. 5. I need to work on finding time to conference with each of my students, but I don’t want it to be too time consuming or complicated. This really will help. Thanks again, Angela. Have a great 2015!

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18 Angela Watson January 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm

I hope it’s helpful, Meg! Happy New Year!

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19 Audrey January 2, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Thanks for sharing this idea Angela. It’s a lovely way to make connections with students on a whole and not just when they are being disruptive or deemed problematic.
I will certainly use this idea on my return to school January 5.
Thanks once more for sharing and I look forward to see other such ideas.

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20 Angela Watson January 3, 2015 at 6:29 pm

That’s wonderful to hear, Audrey! Enjoy!

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21 Renee Coggins January 4, 2015 at 8:48 pm

I do this. I call them my Target Students for each day. I even take it one step further. I have a template that is sectioned off for each period of our day. I try to make a note about each target student for each period. What center did each student choose? What brilliant answer did he offer? What did she struggle with? How did he interact with others? etc. That gives me several “snapshots” of a typical day in each student’s folder that I can refer to for conferences, SST meetings, etcetera. I find it especially helpful in meeting the needs of my average students–those who typically slip under the radar.

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22 Rissa Hanneken January 11, 2015 at 5:36 pm

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