With ever-changing schedules and limited time to meet, it’s important to establish easy and positive relationships with students in your math intervention groups right off the bat!
Building relationships with students is about so much more than an ice breaker or a team building activity. Developing relationships with students is about helping your students to feel comfortable, feel successful, feel like you care about them and feel like they can trust you to be someone who can hold a safe space. These 5 easy to implement strategies will set you and your students up for success!
Strategy 1: Build a Comfortable Environment
You may be pulling your students out of their classroom down into a space where they have never previously visited for math intervention. Ensuring that your environment is clean, organized and inviting is the first step to setting your students at ease so that they can feel comfortable during your math intervention time.
Another dimension of building a comfortable environment is helping your students to know what to expect during your meeting times together. I started each math session with a checklist of 4-5 activities we would be completing during our time together. Throughout our session we would check back in with our list often. My students never had to waste energy or emotion feeling uncertain about what might be ahead in a math session- our checklist was a simple anchor that could help my students to be comfortable within our space together.
Strategy 2: Your Words Matter
Through PBIS professional development, I initially learned to keep a ratio of 3 positive statements to each corrective statement. In the years that followed that training, I have found research (such as this article) that ranges anywhere between a 3:1 to a 6:1 ratio of positive to corrective statements.
While the research varies in terms of the particular rate, the general principle of providing more positive reinforcement than corrective feedback needs to stay top-of-mind when developing positive relationships with students in a math intervention setting.
Students who see your math intervention space as a positive and encouraging environment will more easily develop trust and positive associations with you and your time together!
Strategy 3: Build Upon Success and HAVE FUN!
As an adult, I joined a recreational soccer team with my sister. While my sister has played consistently throughout the years I hadn’t played since middle school. While it was a fun way to get in exercise and while I enjoyed my time with the other women on the team it was always stressful because I was playing beyond my skill level. The game was happening at a level that was simply beyond me. Despite the fact that those around me were encouraging and just out there for some fun I was constantly stressed while playing.
The same is true of your students. You can have provide a calm and orderly enviroment and be a positive and engaging teacher but if your students are constantly feeling like they are in over their heads in terms of the content there will be an undercurrent of stress and overwhelm in your space.
When planning lessons and content, be careful to come at content with an asset based approach rather than a deficit mindset. This means understanding what your students know and are able to do and designing instruction with entry points that build upon their strengths.
And, while your at it, providing instructional activities that are fun and engaging can also help to promote that positive environment that will help to develop positive relationships. How can we easily build engagement? Getting to know your students is the first step.
Strategy 4: Get to Know Your Students
When you only see your students for short periods of time you might not always get the opportunity to have the informal conversations that allow you to get to know one another. Be intentional about building in consistent opportunities to get to know your students.
#1 on our checklist of activities every day in math intervention was always “2 minute sharing”. It doesn’t sound like much but it made such an impact. 2-minute sharing is exactly what it sounds like. We set a timer for 2 minutes and did a quick whip around the table where my students could share whatever it was they had on their minds or were excited about.
My students knew that my number one priority every day was to hear about what was important to them. It might be that their cousins were coming over for dinner tonight. It might be that their dog was sick and had to go to the vet. It might be that they watched Frozen for the thousandth time last night— whatever was on their minds was important to me!
What comes after the 2-minute sharing is just as important as the quick activity itself. If I find that everyone in my group is in love with Elsa– guess who is going to show up in a story context in the next lesson? That’s right, the ice queen herself. Using topics that my students enjoy can easily boost engagement!
If I pass a student in the hallway who mentioned that their dog was sick during our last meeting, I’m absolutely going to stop and ask them how their pup is doing. What is important to my students is important to me and I’m going to relentlessly demonstrate this to them!
Strategy 5: Building Positive Relationships With Students is About Trust
Ultimately, your students need to know that you care about them and that they can trust you. Being clear and consistent, being fair, being a listener and showing that your students matter are all ways that you can build trust in your students.
Above all else, please take this away from this blog post. Developing relationships with your students is so much more than any “relationship building” activity you can put in place.
- Build a comfortable environment where your students know what to expect.
- Provide more positive reinforcement than corrective statements.
- Build upon success and have fun together.
- Get to know your students.
- TRUST matters.
This blog post is a part of the “Behind the Scenes” Math Intervention series. New behind the scenes posts relating to organization, student management and all things math intervention can be delivered directly to your inbox by subscribing HERE to The Math Spot Newsletter.