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.
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.
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.