Research indicates that teacher-student relationships are a critical part of the learning process. In face-to-face learning, being in the same room allows relationships to develop naturally. However, in an online learning environment, teachers and students are never in the same physical space. That means relationship building must be more strategic and intentional. Whether you’re in the classroom or teaching online, every teacher should have strategies for building student relationships.
The importance of building student relationships
In the article “Relating to Students: It’s What You Do That Counts,” Robert J. Marzano talks about relationships in the classroom. He explains that positive connections between teachers and their students is one of the most common methods to increase learning. “If the relationship is strong, instructional strategies seem to be more effective.”
Port Chester High School in New York is focused on doing just that. The school uses a campus-wide game to create positive connections between learners and faculty. One student emphasized that it has great results. “I feel I’m very close with a lot of my teachers, and I think that helps me perform in the classroom.”
Marcia Baldanza, principal at Patrick Henry Elementary School in Virginia, also discusses creating positive connections. In the article “Teaching with Games,” she describes why playing games helps teacher-learner relationships.
“Children learn best when the content is relevant to them and when they can connect new learning with old. Finding the Velcro to make those connections can be challenging, but with games, it’s easy.” Games strengthen problem-solving and social skills, and students enjoy them because they get to have fun.
Education writer Larry Ferlazzo and teacher Katie Hull Sypnieski point out how important it is for students to develop trust in the classroom. Activities such as games can be used for introductions and used again later in the school year to maintain positive relationships. They stress that activities for building student relationships help all students, including English language learners.
Building relationships with online games
Using games that are part of pop culture is an engaging strategy for making connections with your learners. One of the best examples is online gaming. Every year there’s a new game that grabs kids’ attention. There was “Fortnite,” then “Roblox,” and now you can’t be a teacher without hearing murmurings of “Among Us.”
“Among Us” is a game that places players into a spaceship in the form of a minion-esque creature. All players except one or two are “crewmates.” However, there is an imposter among us! One or two players are secretly told they are an “imposter.” The role of the crewmate is to perform tasks to keep the ship running smoothly. The role of the imposter is to sabotage the crewmates. The goal of the game is for the crewmates to answer the question: Who’s the imposter?
This game captivates kids, including my nieces. I asked them why they enjoy playing it, and this is what they had to say:
“‘Among Us’ is an adventurous game. It is always fun to play and has lots of adventures. If you’re bored, you can click the game and play!”
“Because it’s a challenge. The “imposters challenge” is to not let anybody know who they are, and the “crewmates challenge” is to do their tasks and find out who the imposter is. You can discover what would be on a real spaceship, and you can do cool tasks that you usually would never know about.”
What does “Among Us” have to do with building student relationships? Playing fun games is a great way to develop a rapport with your learners. It’s an extra bonus if the game is connected to their current interests.
A new game you’ll love for building relationships
“Who’s the Imposter?” is a game that combines “Among Us” and another favorite, “Two Truths and a Lie.” Your learners will love this game, making building student relationships easy. Here are the steps to play:
- Choose one student to be the “imposter.”
- Use the message feature in Hāpara Highlights to send a message to only that student. The student will see a message appear on their device, “YOU are the imposter!”
- Ask students a get-to-know-you type question: “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” or “Who is your favorite musician?”
- All students answer truthfully except for the imposter.
- Students then try to guess who the imposter is.
- Once the imposter is revealed, that student provides the correct answer to the get-to-know-you question.
I asked my nieces if they would like to play a version of “Among Us” in school. Here’s what they said:
“A lot of kids like it, so kids would like to learn. It would be a fun way of learning.”
“It would be a fun way of learning because it would make kids actually want to learn and do things at school. If they played ‘Among Us,’ they may love school.”
Using Hāpara Highlights for building student relationships
Hāpara Highlights enables you to play “Who’s the Imposter?” regardless of your current learning environment. The message feature in Highlights makes it easy to “secretly” identify the imposter in a virtual or face-to-face environment. In fact, you can use the message feature for many other strategies for building student relationships.
Since Highlights allows the teacher to send messages to the entire class, individual students or groups of students, it opens a host of opportunities for building student relationships. Plus, it’s engaging for all types of learners during the beginning of the school year or semester or throughout the year.
Here are a few ideas for using Highlights:
- Send students positive pep talk messages
- Encourage positive behavior by sending supportive messages
- Send private messages to students when in a group Google Meet call
- Provide guidance to small group work
Whether playing “Who’s the Imposter?” or offering support during the learning journey, Hāpara Highlight’s message feature is a must-have instructional tool. Good luck finding the imposter!