Middle school is awkward. Never will your students be as quiet as they are on the first day. If you have a loud one, be forewarned, that is not a good sign. But what do your middle school students really need from you that first week? They need to trust you. They need to know that you care about them. They need to know that you are on their side. There is incredible power in building rapport during the first week of school.
The tricky part is how? During my second year of teaching, I was assigned one remedial math block of 8th grade students. I had no clue what to do with them and so I did what any other sane person would do, I asked my other teacher friends. Unfortunately, I took their great advice and attempted to do the same things with 8th graders as they did with 3rd graders. Tragic mistake. In my well intentioned efforts of building their confidence, I missed the mark by treating them like babies. I won’t humiliate myself and share what terrible activities I planned for them, but I will say that I never fully recovered. They didn’t trust me, they didn’t even think that I cared for them. Because surely if you cared, you would know what 8th grade students like and dislike.
Here are three reasons why every teacher can build rapport with their students through meaningful activities:
Because it will give them an idea of what to expect in your classroom. Middle school students are self conscious and insecure. They are walking into your class nervous and unsure. They are worried about who they will know and what others will think. They need to feel secure in what to expect in your classroom. Use questionnaires and short get to know you activities to open up the dialogue and preview what they can expect from you each day.
Because it communicates that you value them. When you copy their handouts on colored paper or use a fun game in class, they notice. They notice when you are prepared and have spent time ensuring that class will run smoothly. Just like when we as teachers enter a meeting where everything is ready to go, efficient and valuable, we take note. We definitely take note when it isn’t. Your students notice too.
Because it gives you an opportunity to teach a procedure. As teachers we often worry about teaching the procedures. Sure, you can stand at the front of the class and describe all of the ways you want them to enter, leave, turn in papers, get supplies, get into groups, give you their attention, etc. Or you can do something fun and engaging while you teach the procedure.
It sounds a lot like this, “ We are going to do this activity called Quick Questions. When I say go, you are going to find a partner who is wearing a different colored shirt than you and stand back to back. By the time I count to five, everyone should have a partner and be silent. Sammy: Who are you finding? Jamie: What happens when I count to five? Ready go.” You just taught your attention getter and expectations for how to find a partner.
Building rapport with your middle school students is essential. Don’t take the first week lightly or rush into content. Your students are learning about you, themselves, and how to interact in your classroom.
If you are interested in meaningful activities for the first week of school, I have created a pack of 11 ready to go activities. Click HERE to check it out in my TpT store.
Thanks so much for your helpful advice. I have taught for 26 years, all in the elementary level, and I am moving to 6th and 7th grade this school year. I’m very nervous and not very confident because I have always loved the younger grades.
Tyne Brack says
You are going to do great! Good luck!
I appreciate your blog sooooo much! I am moving from elementary to middle school this year and I have no idea how to prepare……bulletin boards, syllabus, what classroom procedures to have in place or what procedures I will even need, etc. I have found so much on your blog that I feel much better prepared. Thank you!!!!