Featured Insights Jan 24

5 ways to unlock connection with hard-to-reach students

As the second semester begins and we celebrate National Mentoring Month, educators know that it’s an important time to connect with all of their students. Establishing strong teacher-student relationships at the start of a new semester will help prime students to succeed in your class, creating more engagement and motivation. 

But what about those students who don’t raise their hand, are very shy, or just seem uninterested in class? Finding ways to connect with ALL students, even those who are harder to reach, is possible. Along is here to help by offering a free tool that strengthens teacher-student connections that you can integrate into your class today. School leaders and teachers around the country continue to share with us how they are using Along to create thriving classrooms, and we’ve shared some of their words of wisdom below!

Check out these 5 ways to unlock connections with all of your students:

  1. Build a weekly routine of connection building. Fostering teacher-student relationships doesn’t just happen—you need a plan! Using a tool like Along, educators can check-in with students on a regular basis to build a routine of connection building. For Nicole Fisher, the principal of Highview Sixth Grade Center in Middletown, Ohio, teachers share an Along question every Monday during their daily homeroom period. “Along gives [teachers] a bank of options to choose from to get to know their students,” she shared.
  2. Offer multiple ways for students to communicate with you. We all have different communication styles, so understanding that this is true of your students is critical. Try offering multiple ways for students to share with you. For those who won’t participate in class, maybe they’d respond better by answering a written prompt. Others may love to share a video or audio recording. The good news is that Along offers many options for student communication. Encourage students to share in the way they feel most comfortable. 
  3. Include student insights in your classroom lessons and discussions. Finding ways to incorporate students’ interests will help to engage less communicative students. For example, if you find out that a student loves Taylor Swift or Lord of the Rings, incorporating that into the day’s math or language arts lesson will help bridge a connection and will help open doors with that student. Nicole Horne-Sherman, a leadership teacher at Thompson Intermediate School in Texas, shared, “Kids do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. I want my students to love who they are, and to have a passion to want to succeed and thrive, not just survive.”
  4. Try asking a low-stakes question. Students may not open up right away if you pepper them with deep questions. Why not try a funny or light question in Along that provokes a low-stakes answer? Some examples include, “If you were an ice cream flavor, which would you want to be?”or “What era of fashion would you want to bring back? Why?” 
  5. Reach out one-on-one. Some students may respond best to one-on-one conversation, rather than any discussions around other classmates. Consider approaching these students directly and having a face-to-face conversation. “We’re in competition with things that are vying for their attention, and they really need someone to go to for guidance,” says Horne-Sherman. “No matter where these students go, they’ll always remember those teachers or administrators that have shaped and inspired them in such a meaningful way.”

For more strategies for connection, check out our blogs 5 ideas for how and when to use Along in your classroom or 5 ways to build trust in the classroom.

We’d also love to hear from you! Share your insights by reaching out to media@gradientlearning.org.

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