ProTip Wednesday: 10 Activities to Get to Know Your Students Better

As we close out our month on student engagement strategies, let’s leave with the number one secret weapon your teacher arsenal: getting to know your students. We’ve touched upon this very important subject before:

Getting to know students it not just for the beginning of the year, it’s a continuous process throughout the year. Here are some strategies that work at any time of the year, especially at the end of the year:

1. What’s in a name?

You automatically think that note cards are great ways for emergency information on students, but why not use them as conversation starters about students’ names? Here are some suggestions that fit perfectly for this point of the year: (via Scholastic)

  • What’s your full name?
  • Were you named after someone?
  • What does your name mean?
  • What is your nickname? How did you get that nickname?
  • If you could change your name, what would you name yourself?
  • Now…. on the bottom of this paper, please write your name in a creative way. Can you use color? Fancy writing? Swirls? Block letters? A pattern? Design something as special as YOU are!

2. Create a class compliment fan

This is an activity from our own Head of Customer Success, Sheri. She used this near the end of the year and had students write compliments about each other on each side of the folded accordion fan so each time the student unfolded a flap, they would see another compliment. This is one strategy to get to know the positive things students see each other and to encourage a happier, inclusive classroom environment.

3. Dinner with a side of college

This guidance counselor invited her students’ families over for dinner to not only get to know them but to also coach them through the often confusing college application and tuition process. Many of these students are the first to attend college from their families so personal time with them and their families was invaluable. (via ASCD)

4. Giving old worksheets a twist

Long test? Stick one last “fun question” that you can use to get to know students. My personal favorite while teaching a fossil unit was for them to draw our “unit mascot” the T-Rex in a variety of ways. For example, “T-Rex loves to dance. Draw T-Rex in his natural habitat with your favorite song.” Doing this, I was able to not only get a laugh, but also learn what songs they liked to listen to during our work times. (classroom-friendly of course!)

5. Formative assessments as weekend assessments

Daily formative assessments like Do Nows and Exit Tickets are great opportunities to add questions to get to know students. From “What are you doing this weekend?” to “What is your favorite flavor of chips?” the possibilities for creativity are endless.

6. Student fact math problems

One teacher ingeniously came up with the idea to join a typical “get to know you” type of activity into an actual math lesson by asking students to create math questions that have answers that relate to their lives. For example, one side of a paper is 2x+1=7 and on the other side, the answer is 3, “I have 3 dogs.” (via ASCD)

7. Google Voice messages

Nervous about giving out your personal phone number? Create your own Google Voice number easily here. A Google Voice number is an alternate number (one you can choose!) that will still connect to your direct phone number but your students will not have your personal number. With this activity, ask students to call you and leave a voice message describing something about their day or weekend. It’s the same “getting to know you” activity, but with a twist! (via OLE Community)

8. Life maps

My personal favorite “getting to know you” activity that I did at the beginning of the second semester, but it can really be done at any time of the year. Although it is very fun to see students’ life maps, I’ve had instances where the events are deeply personal and emotional for students. It’s an extremely powerful activity because students are not just describing their lives in an essay—they are also drawing and mapping it. I end it by asking students to draw where they want to be in 20 years.

9. Getting to know students’ communities

The communities we teach in are not often the same communities teachers live in. Another project I tried with my students was to put students at the driver’s seat of community rejuvenation. They created a T-Chart of they liked and disliked about their community and conducted interviews with families and friends. We were able to discuss as a class what they liked and how they could fix what they did not like.

10. Give advice to next year’s class

Stephanie over at Teaching in Room 6 writes about a very easy and edit-less way to procure and curate advice from your current class to next year’s class. Bonus: overhearing their conversations when they work together is priceless! (via Teaching in Room 6)

Get to know how your student is learning. Find out how at

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