Out of all the effective teaching strategies there is one strategy that is more effective than all others. Can there really be a number one effective teaching strategy? You bet there is, because without this strategy you will be met with blank stares from your students day after day.
If I had to decide what my most successful teaching strategy is, what I find to be the most effective teaching strategy, without a doubt it is the connection that I make with students. You see without a connection to your students, there will be little or no content understanding.
Always remember this: connection before content. This should be at the top of your list of effective teaching strategies.
This connection with your students is a two way street – you to student, and student to you. You need to give something of yourself, and in turn your students will give back something of themselves.
This connection applies to teachers at every level and in different learning situations: from kindergarten to fifth grade, high school to college; in seminars, employee training, or sales presentations. The teacher must connect with the students or audience before they will hear the message being delivered, the content.
Think back to situations you have been in, whether it was school or a sales pitch. Who are the teachers or people you connected with? Most likely they were the ones who you felt acknowledged you, wanted to get to know you, enjoyed what they were doing, and were committed to your success. They are the people you want to be around and enjoy talking to. They know and understand that connecting with students is the most important of all effective teaching strategies.
So, as an educator, how do you make this connection? Here are some effective teaching strategies for making that connection:
Be fully present in the moment. When your teaching day starts give your total focus to your students and the task at hand. This will send a message to your students that they are important.
Learn something about each of your students. This is easier for those that teach one group of students. It takes more effort for those at the middle, high school, and college level where you have large groups throughout the day, but it can be done. I think if you really enjoy teaching, you enjoy the interaction with students.
Try this quick check – write down something you know about each of your students. If you are struggling trying to come up with something for particular students make a point to learn something about them. If you have large classes set a goal for a number of students you will make a point to speak to each day. This way over the course of the week you will have connected with each of your students one on one. Sometimes we have those quiet students who slip under the radar and we don’t always check in with them as often as others who are more vocal or needy.
Share information about yourself with your students. Very early in the school year my students know about my family, pets, favorite foods, what I do on the weekend (well not everything), my hobbies, and my general likes and dislikes. Sharing this information with students lets them see you as a person, and gives them common ground to connect. Little bits of information are easy to weave into your general teaching and conversations with students. Don’t cross the line by giving too much personal information, or boring students with long stories about your kitchen renovation. Give information that is relevant in their lives that they can connect to.
Be in tune with your students each day and for every class. Besides connecting with them individually you also need to connect with the mood of the group. If the group energy is low, get students moving with a game or stretch break. If the group is restless and having difficulty settling down, do some calming activities with them. If students seem stressed extend an assignment deadline, or give a “night off” from homework. Being in tune with your group is such an important teaching strategy and most often students will be more productive when you respond to their needs.
Remember, each student and class is different. Respecting and acknowledging those differences will go a long way to achieving a personal connection with your students.
When you connect with students and they connect with you, they trust you and are invested in their learning. Your students will be able to hear the content you present to them because they know you are invested in their success.
There are several classroom activities which are effective teaching strategies for connecting with students.