Students don’t have to like you to learn, but it sure makes things easier. Building and maintaining a rapport with students can make teaching a daily joy for teachers and students. But how can you cultivate this type of relationship without taking away from instruction and becoming too casual? And how do you do it now that some classrooms are completely virtual? Get students writing.
There are a variety of writing assignments that can help students grow in creativity and connection with you and the rest of the class. Here are a few fun, engaging and relevant ideas, all doable both in class and online.
Write an article about the teacher: Have students prepare open-ended questions and then hold a timed “press conference” to interview you. Students will then take the information you’ve given them to write a feature with you as the subject. This will help students learn more about you while learning how to decipher relevant versus irrelevant details, how to weave pieces of information into a compelling story and how to paraphrase. Differentiate this task by having facts about you already written out in random order, having students write the story in teams and supplying sentence stems.
Put the teacher into their story: Every so often, let students use teacher and classmates’ names when writing fiction. It’s a little thing that gives students immense excitement and makes the assignment immediately engaging. When I model writing skills in class, I often use students’ and my names as characters. When I allow them to do the same, my writers are eager to share their pieces while peers are eager to read how their names have been used in the stories. This activity builds peer-to-peer rapport and invests them in the writing.
Write a business letter to the teacher: Give your students the opportunity to write you a business letter if they want something changed. Whether it’s a request for individual dry erase boards or to play a new online game as a class, students can articulate their ask using formal language and organized reasoning. After reviewing, respond with acceptance or rejection letters. This experience will show students you value their voice and provide a learning opportunity for those who do receive rejection letters. Explain why the request was denied along with tips on how to improve their letter so it can be accepted next time. This recurring task can help students practice writing for specific audiences and improving persuasion skills.
Write together: I write a weekly message in the form of a poem to motivate students while reiterating the weekly skill focus. Sometimes I have a student help me write the weekly message, choosing from volunteers. While collaborating virtually with a student may take longer when you are doing it through a video call, the time spent working together will help you build a connection with that individual student. Finally, when the poem is presented, I make sure to indicate that both my student and I are the authors.
So the next time you are thinking of how to maintain a trusting relationship with students while increasing their academics, don’t think too long. Have them write.
Learn more effective teaching strategies by enrolling in a program at American College of Education. Explore the M.A. in Elementary Teaching, M.A. in Secondary Teaching and all of our other education programs.