The Best Way to Build Relationships with Students in the Beginning

The number on priority of a classroom teacher is building relationships with students and parents right at the beginning of the school year! Scrap academics in your very early planning. You must have a community of learners you can work with and who can work together. Creating responsible and loving learners, problem solvers, and friends will set the foundation for the whole year. That’s why building realtionships is key right from the start.

Training a large group of five- year-olds to function as a loving community does not happen overnight. It does not happen naturally. Most of these children have never met, have limited social experiences, and may not have been in a school setting before. It.takes.lots.of.time. and lots of intentional activities to promote relationship building.

Warm Welcome and Introductions

The best way to begin building those relationships with students is do it in your very first few connections. For some it’s a summer screening. For me it’s been a Meet the Teacher Event Activity, welcome email, and phone call. Parents need to know that their child is in good hands. It is the teacher’s job to reassure both the parent and the child that we are all in this together. Building reationships and trust with families carries over into the classroom.

Summer Welcome Email

A Welcome Email or letter is also an important introduction for your families to have early on. Parents like to know the adult that will be such an important part of their child’s life. Build trust early on by letting your families inside your life regularly. Also, make sure you encourage your parents to tell you as much as they can about their child. Then keep a notebook of this information so that it sticks for later when you can re-connect to those families. They trust you when you show them their child is important to you. Here’s the sample I have used.

Offer a collaborative project as an early relationship builder.

Hopes & Dreams Stones

One activity idea for building realtionships with students is to collect stones in a basket. Ask parents to write their hopes and dreams for their child on the rock with a sharpie. This goes on one side of the stone. They are to write the child’s first name on the other. Then I ask them to read their stone to their child before they go home. They drop it back into a basket and it becomes a wonderful reminder to their child of their love. The connection from school to home is made. The children can later enjoy the rock in a station area. It doesn’t matter if students can read or not. They’ll remember the message/connection and that’s perfect!

Collaborative Art

Creating collaborative art together builds relationships and gives children a sense of community and belonging. Art is a way to help the day of creation stick with them throughout the rest of the school year. Stringing beads on yarn or pipe cleaners can decorate a welcoming door wreath or table centerpiece. It will greet them upon their classroom arrival and fill them with a sense of pride every time they enter the classroom! If it works into your schedule, your new students could create these with their parents at Meet the Teacher or Open House. It’s powerful to bring that memory into the classroom space.

My favorite early activity is Wire Images. I give parents a 12 inch piece of jewelry wire and a 6 x 6 inch piece of construction paper. I ask them to create a wire “image” of their child and write a description of why this image best fits their child. Students are so excited and proud to share their image in our classroom meeting. These are hung on a bulletin board with a Sharpie self-protrait and kept throughout the year to enjoy on a bulletin board.

Wire Images of students made by parents

Night Before School Phone Call to Students

I love to check in with families the night before the first day of school. There are so many questions, nerves, and needs that come up right before anyone does something new. It goes a long way with parents to ease those uncertainties for them and their child immediately! My phone call is quick and always fun!

I do not ask for the parent… I direct my conversation to my new student. They are so excited to get their own personal phone call. Once I have my new student on the phone, here’s how that chat goes:

  • I introduce myself & tell them how excited I am to start spending time together.
  • I ask them how they feel about starting school.
  • I add easy questions like, “Is your backpack all packed up and ready?” or “Is there anything they are wondering about for our first day?”
  • I tell them a couple of things we will do in our first few days.
  • I wrap it up by having them ask if their parents have any questions. (Sometimes the parents will let the child ask for them, but sometimes the parent will want to get on the phone with a last minute transportation or lunch question.)
  • We usually say good bye within 5 minutes and I can just feel how relieved everyone is through the wire!

It has taken 1 1/2 before, but in this day and age most people don’t answer their phone with unknown numbers. I end up leaving more messages. than I used to. Not as much fun, but the effort taken is noted. You’ve started building relationships and scored some points before the first day! You may find out some very useful information during your phone call, too. Don’t forget to take notes!

Celebrate with Birthday Rocks to build relationships with students

Within the first week of school I like to create Birthday Rocks and a Birthday Banner. They are super easy and don’t take up too much time.

Celebrate with Birthday Rocks

For Birthday Rocks I purchase smooth stones, scrapbooking stickers with a birthday theme, and a spray glitter sealer from Hobby Lobby. Students get to select their rock and a couple of stickers to decorate their rock. I write names on the back with a sharpie & spray them with the sealer. The sealer shines them up to make them look a little more special and keeps the stickers from coming off.

For the banner I used a Teachers Pay Teachers purchased banner and strung it together with ribbon that matched my classroom. I created a picture circle of each student and mounted them on cardstock. Students strung beads on a bookring to show how old they are. I hole punched the photo & added it to the ring. Then I connected it to the correct birthday month for each student.

When it was a child’s birthday, they added a bead to their birthday ring. Their birthday rock went in a small gift bag with a few other treats. They got to take the bag home. The rocks were kept in a basket on the shelf and kids could look through them whenever they wanted to. It was fun watching the rocks slowly become less in number as the year passed on. A bit of a subtraction problem was constantly taking place.

Building Relationships with Students and Parents

Building relationships with students and parents to develop a loving kindergarten community in your classroom is the best investment you can make to get your school year started off right! I hope these activities give you a few ideas to get started!

Check out my post on how to create a beautiful black & white farmhouse classroom here to give your students an awesome classroom home!

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