With the beginning of the school year comes a daunting task for every teacher – getting to know a new set of classes.
In the first week you are expected to lay down the laws, but you should also use this time to get to know your students. Building a good rapport can start on the very first day, and is the absolute number one thing you can do to help the students settle in your classes and try to be well behaved.
I have turned the rattiest students to my side simply by getting to know them, their quirks, their loves and fears, a bit about their home life. This allows you to start exploring their personalities, and adapting your behaviour management to actually be a useful thing. For example, students with a rough home life will never respond well to you getting angry or yelling at them – they unfortunately often get it a lot a home, so it doesn’t have the desired effect at school.
Of course it will take a lot more than a simple set of questions one lesson to really get to know them, but at the very least it’s a fantastic starting point. You can start having conversations about their hobbies, ask about their families, and generally show them that you see them as people, not just data sets of students.
Here is a questionnaire that I use with my new classes (secondary school). Some questions might seem silly, and the students will likely think it’s a pointless exercise, so emphasise your desire to get to know them so you can help them in the ways they need in your class.
Tell me about yourself
- What is your full name?
- What name do you prefer to be called by?
- When is your birthday?
- What is your nationality?
- Who lives with you at home?
- Which subject do you find easiest?
- Which subject do you find hardest?
- What is the most fun thing about school?
- What is the least fun thing about school?
- What are your greatest talents? If I needed help around the classroom, what could you help with?
- Do you prefer working in groups or independently?
- Do you feel like you’re good at reading?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What type of movies do you like to watch?
- What type of music do you like listening to?
- What type of things do you like to read? (Books, manga, magazines, the internet, etc)
- Who is your favourite celebrity, and why?
- What is your favourite food?
- What do you want to be when you grow up? (If you don’t know a specific thing, do you know an area you’d like to work in?)
- Have you ever been overseas? If so, to where?
- What is one thing you wish your teachers knew about you?
I like to keep the responses in a folder with any other information about the students I might need to know. That way it’s handy to refer back to throughout the year, and update perhaps, which can be especially handy if a student starts to misbehave or seems a bit lonely in the class.
Note, this isn’t an activity designed for the students to get to know each other, just for you to get to know them. I wouldn’t share the answers with the class as some of the questions are personal and they may be embarrassed talking about them with their peers instead of you (like who lives with them at home if they don’t have what they see as a ‘normal’ family, or the questions about reading ability and future aspirations, and certainly not the last question). They will share the information they are comfortable sharing with their peers in their own time.
Feel free to use this questionnaire with your own students, or adapt to suit your needs! You could even switch the questions around a little and do a ppt version of your own answers to go through with the students first. Fair is fair, and if you’re asking these questions of your students you should tell them about yourself too. Just the same as us, they are more likely to form a good rapport if they know a bit about you as a person, especially if it turns out you have similar interests!