Great Ways to Get to Know Your Students During the First Weeks of School

By Huntington Learning Center

A new school year brings new students and plenty of excitement. For some students, it can also bring some discomfort while adapting to a new schedule, getting to know different teachers and worrying about any academic challenges from the prior school year. Getting to know your students goes a long way toward setting the right tone for the school year. Want new ideas on how to do so? Here are a few suggestions for first-day-of-school activities and other activities early in the school year:  

  • Start the year with a short learning survey. Although some students will open up about themselves when you ask questions, others might be less inclined to do so. Give your students an opportunity to share more about how they learn with you privately—via a short survey (paper or digital). Here are a few possible getting-to-know-your-students questions:
    • What’s your favorite subject? Why? 
    • What’s your least favorite subject? Why? 
    • What time of day do you prefer to do homework? 
    • Do you have any academic goals this year? 
  • Learn two things about each student in the first week. Students will notice and appreciate this effort to get to know them personally. Greet them at the door as they come in or find opportunities to chat with students throughout the day/class period to learn things like:
    • A favorite sport or activity
    • A favorite TV show or movie
    • What the student did over the summer
    • What was their favorite book they read over the summer 
  • Play icebreakers. Icebreaker activities set the tone for positivity and are a fun way to get students acquainted in the first couple of weeks of school. These ideas can be adapted for different age groups: 
    • Question of the day - Write a question of the day on the whiteboard before students come in and have them jot down answers on a slip of paper as they get settled. Have students share their answers with partners (and change partners each day). 
    • Class playlist - Invite students to submit three favorite (and class-appropriate) songs for a class playlist. Play music for a few minutes each day or period (e.g., during cleanup time for elementary students or as students enter the room for middle or high school students). 
    • Fun facts scavenger hunt - Hand out a list of statements and have students walk around the classroom to collect signatures of any peers who fit each. Examples: I have a dog. I was born outside the U.S. My favorite activity is baseball/football. I like reading more than math. My birthday is in the winter. I’m a good cook. I am fluent in more than one language. I have never traveled outside of the state. You can repeat this game any time you need a brain break and create new questions—some days more playful, some days more academically focused.  

Why is it important to get to know your students? For many reasons! You’ll establish a good rapport, create a positive relationship built on mutual respect, and help students feel more comfortable discussing their needs. A relationship with strong communication is needed throughout the school year and will translate to better engagement overall. And of course, the more you know about your students, the better you’ll be able to support their learning and help them achieve success. So, take the time to get to know students. It’s well worth it!