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How to Improve Classroom Management by Building Student Relationships

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Classroom management has been a struggle for ages. There are a lot of ideas out there, and teachers receive a lot of training on classroom management, but the struggle continues. So, I wanted to address this issue by sharing one key area that will help your classroom management and impact the interactions between you and your students.

If you want a quick teacher-student relationship building cheat sheet, you can grab it for free here, then make sure you grab this classroom-community building escape game to develop strong student-to-student relationships too!

This is a topic near and dear to my heart because not only have I dealt with a lot of students with different personalities, but I am also a mother with kids that have vastly different personalities and react to situations differently. When you have a healthy relationship with your students, it builds trust and allows you to connect with them better. It will also help any classroom management strategy that you decide to use. 

9 Ways to Build Relationships with Your Students

1. Morning Meetings

Morning meetings are not a time waster and are not only for announcements. They are there for you to have discussions with your students. 

Allowing your students time to share about themselves continues building trust as you develop in interest with them while also allowing them to get to know you better.

When students reach the age where they don’t always get along, especially in fourth and fifth grade, morning meetings are a great way to discuss how to handle these situations. For example, you can talk about what to do when someone is mean to you or you see someone bullying someone else. This isn’t a time to name names, but an open discussion on handling these situations because they occur, especially during recess.

2. Be Transparent and Genuine

You need to be able to relate to your students, and they need to be able to relate to you. The students are great at picking up on phoniness, so don’t try to trick them with any fancy classroom management strategies.

Be genuine and consistently show that you care about them, even when their behavior is frustrating. Make sure they understand that you are there to support them, and make sure they know the rules you have in place are there to help you provide that support. 

One of the ways to connect is by sharing what you personally struggled with as a student. When they can see that you are not perfect and that you had struggles, it allows you to connect with them. 

3. Acknowledge Every Student Every Day

You are busy and have a lot of responsibilities, but make it your top priority to greet each student as they enter the classroom each morning. Don’t just mumble a “good morning”; make eye contact, so they see that you are taking the time to greet them specifically. This makes a big difference, especially if the student has a tough time at school or home.

4. Ask Students Questions

A lot of our focus with students is strictly on academics, but focusing solely on academics does not prepare us to present lessons in the best way for our students to learn. Focusing on the student’s interests and what is going on with them at school and home allows us to tailor the presentation of the lessons to engage and connect with them.

5. Dealing with Negative Behavior

When dealing with negative behavior, focus on redirecting the student’s attention instead of focusing on punishing the student.

You can often solve the problem by pulling the student off the activity they are performing the negative behavior and directing their attention to another task. 

If redirecting the student within your classroom does not work, or is not an option, have a backup plan. For example, you can send the student on an errand with another teacher, or where they can go to another teacher’s classroom to help with a task. 

The important thing is to direct the student toward something they can still complete, which separates them from the negative behavior so that they can come back fresh and feel like they accomplished something.

6. Build in Encouragement

Building an atmosphere of encouragement is essential in creating a positive environment. It is a great idea to encourage your students through words and notes and build a system where the students encourage each other. This creates an atmosphere where students strive to do their best.

To take it a step further, call home to report encouraging days, projects, or steps that the student has had to their parents. This does two things. First, the parent looks forward to engaging with the teacher when the engagement is not only focused on negative behavior. Secondly, the parents often pass the encouraging report from the teacher to their child, and it creates a positive interaction regarding school while the child is at home.

7. Small Groups

Small groups are a great way for student and teacher interaction and connection and student-to-student interaction and connection. 

Be creative with your small groups. It can be a small group during regular school hours or before or after school. Be sure to include all students in small groups, not just the best behaved.

This is an opportunity to place students in groups where their skills can shine and where you can help them develop their current skills and build new ones. The small groups are great for social interaction, but also make sure that the students accomplish things during this time to build that sense of accomplishment that we all need.

8. Integrate Their Interests

This step requires you to know your students and their particular interests. I have found that putting in the effort to get to know my students and then integrating their interests into lesson plans reduces behavioral issues and increases engagement in the classroom.

You can tweak whatever curriculum you use to align with students’ interests more closely. Whether it is creating a fun math game, choosing a particular book, or highlighting different parts of the lesson, you can tailor it to your students’ interests.

9. Bring Students in on the Discipline Process

Every student is different, so there is not necessarily a perfect discipline process across the board. Having a conversation with your students about the discipline process and even the reward process is very important.

When a student is misbehaving, and you have to step in, discuss with them what would be a fitting punishment or how they could make up for the negative behavior. You can even give them options to choose from, but they are at least involved in the process.

Some students are motivated by rewards. It is important to know what rewards motivate your students. 

If you have a conversation with them about avoiding negative behavior in the future, discuss the reward they will get for avoiding it. Knowing what motivates your students and then presenting how the students achieve those rewards goes a long way in developing a healthy classroom atmosphere.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are exceptions to every rule. For example, some students truly have emotional or behavioral needs outside the scope of a regular classroom teacher. In those situations, these relationship-building tips are still very helpful, but you definitely need to get the help of your special education department and administration to make sure the student has the tools they need to succeed. 

For the majority of the cases, building healthy relationships with your students is the best way to a better-behaved classroom and a successful classroom management system. 

Don’t wait to build those relationships until things are not going well. Building relationships with your students should start at the very beginning of every school year. They will continue to progress throughout the school year.

If you would like a reminder of these nine ways to build relationships in your classrooms, download the free resource here, then grab this free classroom-community building escape game to build strong student-to-student relationship too!

Please feel free to bring this information into your classroom and think of some ways you can incorporate the information into your relationships and interactions with your students.

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April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 

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