Write me a letter

I need to improve how I get to know my students at the beginning of the school year.

I already knew that I was weak on this front, but when Sara VanDerWerf detailed launching tasks by creating context that honors students, it really inspired me to get the ball rolling.

I already have a couple of routines that allow me to connect with my students. Namely, personal notes, Friday letters, and end of year letters that I open at the start of the next school year. But what I’m missing is something substantial at the start of the year that will help me design the class around my students (that’s not content-based).

So this year, during the first week of school, I’m going to have students write me a letter. It can be handwritten or an email and serves as an opportunity for students to personally communicate whatever it is about themselves that they think I should know. I may provide prompts for those that need guidance, but I want the letter to be somewhat open-ended. I want them to tell me what they feel is important. Some prompts I’m thinking of are:

  • What’s something about yourself that I wouldn’t know by looking at you?
  • What’s your family’s background? Do you speak any languages other than English?
  • Who do you live with? Do you have any siblings?
  • In all of your years of school, who is/was your favorite teacher? Why?
  • Who is/was your least favorite? Why?
  • Was mathematics invented or discovered? Why do you think that? (Thanks Elizabeth.)
  • If you had to be any number, which one would you be? Why? (Thanks Matt.)

What’s more, over the course of the first few weeks of school, I’ll write every student a detailed letter in reply. This way they can get to know me on a more personal level as well. It’s a significant time committment, but one that I feel will be worth it in the long run.

Speaking of Sara, she also wrote about how she uses name tents during the first week of school, which I hope to adopt this year. This is a crafty, yet simple, way of not only learning student names, but also learning all that is behind those names.



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