As the new year begins, one of THE most important things we can do to help make it a GREAT year is to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with each child. Without connections and relationships built on trust, our kiddos ability to thrive is limited. So how do we bond with our kids to make sure they thrive? In this post, I’ll share my favorite ways to build connections at the beginning of the year.
Best Books for Building Relationships
There are several books that I really love, but the ones that lead to the best discussions must have themes that help students KNOW that you CARE and that you know they will ACHIEVE. The first title that every teacher in the middle/upper grades needs to use is Thank You Mr. Falker by my all time favorite author, Patricia Polacco. Children must know that you are with them for the long haul just like Patricia’s teacher, Mr. Falker. He supported her just as we support our kids all year long no matter their challenges. Here is the link to the unit.
Another MUST READ is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. This is a great book for developing an inclusive class. In the unit, I included materials for comprehension and discussion including lessons on Theme vs. Main Idea, a lapbook about being kind and developing friendships, and a “Meet Us” class book. It works well at the beginning of the year, but also in February. You can certainly use part of the unit at the beginning of the year and revisit the book in February (and do the lapbook then). You can learn more HERE.
Finally, The Bad Seed is perfect for goal setting and establishing classroom expectations. The story is great for a range of grade levels and tells about how a sunflower seed fails to sprout and grow when it’s cast aside into bad environments. Teachers might use it in conjunction with The Good Egg, a new title by Jory Johns. I think older students understand more of the analogy, but certainly, it’s a story that can span multiple grade levels.
The unit I developed to go with it also includes comprehension materials, a lapbook about goals and expectations, and a writing prompt about “Growing the One and Only Me!”. You can check it out HERE.
Community Building Activities
Of course, kids just want to have fun (just like teachers), so on the first few days, team building activities help students get to know each other. One of my favorite get to know you activities is Give One, Get One. It’s so easy to fill in a grid sheet with the descriptors and have students find classmates who….like soccer, play the piano, like to play video games, has read the book ???, likes to take pictures, etc. You can download the Give One, Get One activity I created by clicking the image.
You can also check out THIS POST for a list of community building activities with links to each activity. There are so many fun ways to help kids get to know each other and you.
If you’d like a project for your students, THIS PAPER BAG BOOK is fun and easy to make. It’s great for sparking small group discussion. It includes these activities with guiding questions you can use:
✪ What Makes Me Special
✪ My Special Friend, ____
✪ Our Unique Classroom
✪ Friendship builders and breakers sort
✪ Learning about Each Other’s Culture (sharing)
✪ My Pledge for a Being a Friend
Morning Meetings with Purpose
This is a great resource for daily poetry exposure and character education.~Michael
I love using poetry in my classroom and these will be perfect for my morning meeting Character Lessons! Thank you so much! ~Hillary
Of all the things I’ve created for my store, this poetry bundle means the most to me. If you’d like to try a few sample from this bundle, simply sign up for my email list below and the Bloom Where You are Planted set will be shared. It was truly inspired by several special students of mine as well as my own child.
I’ll close with an important notice…
One important note with these resource: As a reader bonus, the code iteachela will save you 10%. If you feel like any of these resources would help make your tough job easier, click the link below to visit my shop. Other resources I’d recommend checking out are linked on the home page of my blog or below this post. I wish you and your students THE BEST YEAR EVER!