By: Penny Kroening, 2016 National Elementary Physical Education SHAPE America® Teacher of the Year
Setting the Tone for Success with “Get to Know Me” Cards
I am standing at the edge of Bowen Lake after hiking seven plus miles and gaining over 2,100 feet in elevation from the trailhead. Before me lies the beautiful calm Bowen Lake waters nestled into the steep walled bowl. The far shoreline rises steeply up to the saddle where the Continental Divide long Trail passes through. To my right, I hear a big splash and turn to watch four bull moose enter into the water for a short swim across the lake. The moose see me and make a fast 180° turn back to shore where two other bull moose are still standing. Sqrrrreech… We interrupt this summer time hiker blog to return to the regularly scheduled “back to school” blog. Yes… it is time to set the summer hiking boots to the side and prepare for another successful year of teaching.
Creating a supportive, fun, engaging, atmosphere in my classroom is critical from the first moment I see my students. Building those relationships and trust is critical to the success of each and every class. Join me as I blog how I begin my time with my students.
Learning names/faces/parents/siblings/likes/activity of choice of the 600 plus students who attend my elementary school is key to my success. I want to “know” each student. I want to make a connection with them so we, as a class, can begin a pathway of trust and rapport. I want the students to know I care and have their best interest in mind. These are not just mere words, but actions. My personal goal is to be able to make a personal connection with each and every one of my students every day. The beginning of the year is also critical to impart on the students the expectations and safety concerns of the classroom. Melding that into simple, highly engaging activities is critical to my success.
I begin by printing and laminating the Fitness Fun Cards/What Do I Do Cards. I can no longer recall whom I initially picked up this idea from, so I apologize to anyone who may have first placed this idea starter in my mind. Please take the info on the cards and make it what works best for you.
This is how I use the cards:
Print and laminate enough cards to have extra cards in your hand to exchange with the students.
Print off a copy of the “Get To Know Me” list for your reference.
Divide class so everyone has a partner or group of three.
Each partner/group completes the action on the card, then returns to the teacher to switch out the card. After each switch, the teacher asks a “Get To know Me” Question to the students. This is a good time to practice social skills, such as looking at people when talking with each other.
A card exchange with Group A would sound like Student A:
“Good Morning Miss Kroening my name is …First and Last Name”
Student B also shares their first and last name.
I say “Good morning, John Smith!”, “Good morning, Lucy Johnson!” “Welcome to my class!”
I hand them another card they go off to complete the activity before returning for another card, as well as moving through the Get To Know Me list.
When Group A returns, we move forward through a list of “Get To Know Me’s.”
Each time a group returns to me, I try to challenge myself to remember as many things as possible about each member of the group. John Smith and Lucy Johnson, John has two sisters named Jill and Sara. Lucy is the youngest of two, her brother’s name is Brett. Parents’ names are…
Kids love that I work so hard at trying to remember all of these bits of info. Of course, they enjoy catching me if I say the incorrect answer. The students have a good time completing the fitness activities. I also embed basic rules and procedures for students to learn or review with the “What Do I Do If” cards. These cards contain opportunities to gather information on expectations regarding fire drill, tornado drill, intruder drill, medical release, extra gym shoes, whole body listening, bathroom procedures, and “bubbler” procedures (Wisconsin calls drinking fountains bubblers).
During this activity time, I am able to learn a TON of basic information about my students that I can use to help begin the pathway of trust and rapport with over 600 students. I am the person who wants to make sure that I have made contact with each and every student within each of my classes every day. A personal contact with a student might sound or look like personalized feedback regarding a skill we are working on, or it might be inquiring how swim practice went last night. Sometimes it is checking in on how siblings are doing off at college. All of these touches help me create and foster a long-term relationship with my students.
I have the luxury of watching my students grow from tiny little, to kindergartners, to busting at the seams fifth graders readying themselves to take on the world of middle school with gusto. Making the time to learn about your students pays dividends. Students feel connected and have a personal identity; I feel as though I gain the students’ individual, and whole group, trust and respect. This simple little activity starter has gone a long way to making each class a positive experience for students and myself.
Now back to my summer time blog…
Join Penny Kroening along with other 2016 National SHAPE America® Teachers of the Year for a free webinar “Back to School: Setting the Tone for Success.”
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