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How to Get to Know Your New Students

Every year at back to school time, I spend some time brainstorming ways to build my classroom community. The best way that I know how to do this is to get to know my students and to help them get to know each other. I find that the faster I get to know my students the faster we can get into the "groove" of learning.

Last year I recognized students as "Stars of the Week" by giving them posters to decorate and present their posters to the class along with a show and tell item from their home. However, I frequently forgot the send the posters home (and the students even more frequently forgot to bring the posters back to school). This year I decided to try a new idea I adapted from what one of my co-teachers did in her class last year to recognize students in my classroom - having a weekly "Mystery Student." Each week a student is secretly designated to be a mystery student. The teacher contacts the student's parents advance to inform them that their child will be the Mystery Student and for help in generating 5 clues that will help the class learn about their child (look below for a sample questionnaire). Only the teacher and the parents know the identity of the Mystery Student. I love this idea because it is a surprise to the student who is being recognized so it makes it that much more exciting! Each day I will give a clue about the mystery student to the class. The students are left to ponder the clue and who the mystery student might be for the rest of the day. I start with the most generic clues (i.e. their favorite color is blue) so the clue applies to the most number of students. After I read the third clue on Wednesday, I will allow 3 students to guess who the mystery student might be. If the students guess correctly, the mystery student is revealed. If the class does not guess the correct mystery student, they must wait to guess again after the clue is read the next day. If the class has still been unable to guess the mystery student by Friday, I reveal the Mystery Student to the class. The Mystery Student is offered the chance to bring an item for "Show and Tell" the following Monday. Click the image to the right to receive a free copy of the parent questionnaire I use in my classroom.

Tell me about the student spotlight program in your classroom in the comments below.

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