We spend a lot of time in our classrooms trying to get to know our students and making sure we connect with them as individuals. We often do this by casually talking or sharing stories about our weekends between activities. These moments build stronger, more trusting relationships, but can sometimes leave out one important segment of our classrooms, diverse learners. Whether a student is an English Language Learner, has an IEP, or is exceptional in another way, they may lack the confidence necessary to speak up and share in front of the classroom or through verbal communication.
Below you will find three strategies to get to know your diverse learners better (and they work great for shy and introverted students, too).
Some may think of surveys as a beginning of the year, getting to know you strategy, but they are great ways to continuously glean more information from your students. Whether they are personal interest surveys or specific to a subject or topic, giving students the opportunity to tell you what they think, and or like, is a great way to keep learning about your classroom. It’s also a great way to update your course materials/lesson plans to highlight what your students care about.
Written reflective questions are a great way to engage students that are not confident in their speaking skills. We often ask students questions that act as formative assessment, but you can also ask them questions about what they liked or didn’t like in a class session, poll about the supplemental material they would like to see in upcoming classes, or ask them questions that aim to highlight their current interests outside of the classroom.
Communicating through non-verbal means is a great way to learn more about your students who are not confident in their speaking/written English skills. You can build in time for your whole class to draw in response to a “Getting to Know You.” If all of your students are drawing, this opens up the rare opportunity for your ELL to communicate with the rest of the class with no language barrier.
These strategies are a great way to ensure that you are continuously dialed into your students’ experiences and interests in a way that allows all learners to communicate. For more tips and strategies for supporting diverse learners, check out our English Language Learners in Your Classroom course.