Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Study Mondays: Rapport


Previously on Teach Like a PIRATE...
"Ultimately, we don't want to develop techniques to win behavior management battles, we want to develop techniques that allow us to avoid battles altogether."

That quote perfectly sets the stage for this chapter about developing rapport with students.  I totally related to Burgess' recounting of how he often has little difficulty with students who are a mess with other teachers.  I am a magnet for "troubled" students.  I won't go so far at to say I have "little difficulty" with them, but I know that I do collect them, so I paid big attention to this chapter.

In this chapter of Teach Like a PIRATE, Burgess says there are two keys to behavior management--engagement and rapport.  He devotes a large (later) portion of the book to engagement techniques, so this chapter focuses on rapport.  Here are some suggestions from the chapter for building rapport:

  • Learn about your students' interests: favorite TV shows, movies, hobbies, etc.
  • Connect your content to pop culture
  • Look for hooks to your content in the paper or on the news
  • Spend informal time with your students: host clubs, talk between classes, attend extra-curricular activities
How much time do you put into planning the beginning of school?  Burgess outlines his first three days of school, which are specifically designed to build rapport.  In his words:
"Nothing is more important to me than creating the proper atmosphere right from the start.  No content standard matters to me until I have established the safe, supportive, and positive classroom environment I need to successfully teach my students."
How could you argue that's not worth three days?  Day 1 begins with a cryptic message, upbeat music, and Play-Doh.  Yes, Play-Doh.  In the midst of a fun and festive first day is a serious message--meanness will never be tolerated in this classroom.  Day 2 brings an interesting role-playing experience that is introduced by Burgess flying around the room pretending to be an airplane.  Day 3 is the hard sell--convincing students who have often failed in the past that they WILL be successful in this class.

This chapter really makes you stop and think about the lengths you are willing to go to connect to your students and set the stage for learning.

Here's my much time do you spend at the beginning of the year building relationships?  What are some of your tried and true techniques?


  1. I have been following along with this book study through your blog, but I am definitely purchasing the book tonight to read!!!

  2. I'd say I spend a good week building rapport with the students and then continuing to focus on it for quite awhile. We start with our classroom rules that we mold together and write in positive words. Then we talk about consequences. I also have my class read out loud our rules every morning during our quick morning meeting to always refresh themselves each day. I really did love that book and thanks for the great suggestion!


    1. Expectations are such a necessity, Christen! Good that you spend time on them and allow the students to participate. :)

  3. I loved this chapter! I firmly believe that any time invested in building relationships with your students will pay itself back multiple times over through the year... The students are more willing to give respect because they feel respected. Hopefully, the students trust the importance of the tasks I give them because they know I am on their side.

    I teach 2nd graders and spend multiple days working on building these relationships, this rapport, at the beginning of the year. I also think it's an ongoing process during the year.

    One thing I feel is important is sharing details about my personal life (within reason of course) and asking about similar information from their lives. My students know my hobbies, when I have special 'events' on evenings or weekends, etc. They ask me if my brother came home from college, the same as I ask how their hockey game went over the weekend. I care about their lives and I expect them to care about others' lives too!

    Throughout the year, I eat lunch at least once a week with the students in my class. I alternate weeks eating with the boys and girls. It's amazing the things I learn about them through their lunch conversations! I hope they see I value my time with them!

    In terms of building rapport within the classroom and with their peers, we work a lot on team building skills. We have a 2nd grade song that we sing with the other 2nd grade class once or twice a week.

    One of my students' favorite activities are 'silent conversations'. I pair the kids up and give them about 10 minutes to talk to each other about any school appropriate topic... the catch? They can't use their voice. They have to write out their questions and answers. They LOVE this because they think they're just getting extra share time. They don't seem to realize they are also working on writing for an audience, spelling so that others can read, writing neatly, etc. ;)

    I'm anxious to see how others build rapport with their students - I'd love some fresh, new ideas!


    1. Thanks so much for all the wonderful ideas you shared, Cathy. Relationships are the key!! I love that you eat lunch with your kiddos, and I'll be they do, too. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts next week! :)

  4. I think my most effective way to begin building relationships and learning more about my kids is through read alouds. I love to pick some of my favorites to share and begin conversations.

    While I loved reading about Burgess' first 3 days and I'd love to be in his class, I feel like building relationships takes time more than anything with young students. Most come into the classroom trusting their teacher and wanting to be friends with everyone. They haven't had too much school failure yet. I see the rapport and relationships more as a way for me to understand what makes them tick rather than building a secure environment. I want to know them as people just as much as students.

    One thing I feel my struggling learners need is a quiet routine they can count on, which I try to provide during my reading groups. As they learn my routine, they are less anxious about what's going to happen when I come into their classroom. Sue

    1. Love your quote, "I want to know them as people just as much as students." That's an amazing philosophy, and it's what relationships are all about! And I totally agree that routine can be a comfort and security blanket for many kids. Thanks for sharing!! :)

  5. The author definitely has an exciting way to start his year! That is soo not in my comfort zone! ☺

    The very first thing we do as a class on the very first day of school is come to the floor and sit in a big circle. During our circle, we learn to greet each other with respect; listen to each other’s stories, hopes, and fears; and we talk about the schedule for the day ahead. We greet each other each morning with a student led handshake. I have learned some very interesting handshakes!

    It’s a way of showing that everyone is important. It is a glimpse into their life beyond our classroom. This is a treasured time! It provides a sense of significance and belonging. This is done every single day. We never miss a day, even if there is a substitute, a student will run our circle.

    I also have my students complete interest inventories, a buddy Venn diagram, a find someone in the class who matches the same characteristic, go to the head of the class, write a 6 word memoir, and we create a class set of norms.

    I also have my students complete some type of challenge…Saving Fred, the marble ramp…just to show that we need each other! Building a community!

    Out of all these things though, its our time spent in the circle that builds the relationship!

    The question asked was, how long do I spend building relationships? I don’t stop! It’s a simple as remembering that my little cheerleader had a competition and asking how she did, noticing that a student got a hair cut and making a comment, and opening up the classroom door 30 minutes prior to the start of the day. It's the little things.

    1. LOVE your last comment, Charlotte! You are so right--it never stops. Great reminder. I have a weird thing about noticing when kids get haircuts, and it always surprises them that I would notice. It's definitely the little things. :)

  6. Rapport is such an important part of my teaching all year long. I think Burgess made a good point when he wrote,
    "Building rapport is all about interacting with your students as fellow human beings, not just as subordinates. KIDS CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE between teachers who only seem to care..." Kids can and do pick up on whether you genuinely care about them as a person. I agree with him that rapport is probably the most important thing we can and must do to create a safe environment so our students can take the needed risks, make mistakes & learn. They must feel like we are in their corner & that we can be trusted. For me a big part of building rapport is being genuine & honest, having a good sense of humor, being playful, curious and having fun! I make sure our day is full of giggles.

    I am lucky, I typically have half of my previous year's students and families return each year. I tend to teach a child for 3 years. So, I really get to know them well and when my 'newbies' arrive there is a sense of family already in the room. This feeling of family is important & I connect with my new students. We are a family and I make that evident. During the summer, I mail all my students/parents a letter and require some type of task for them to do prior to the first day which they are to bring in & share. ( a bag with 5 items that tell about yourself/family etc.) I have a 'get together' before the first day for everyone to see the room, get to know me & each other a bit.

    Once they arrive on the 1st day, we play name games, guess who is missing, team building games and structures etc. I have a multi- layered positive behavior system that kicks in right away and the kids leave school the first day feeling successful ( even if I have to look for the tiniest detail to positively reward ;-) I have lunch with them often and I take each child out to dinner once they have earned their goal . It is well know that they can pick any place for dinner and many start planning far in advance. ;-). I have gone to children's homes or a recital, baseball game. I find seeing my students outside class powerful and sometimes eye opening.

    I agree with another person here that it is also the little things that seem to count all year long- making yourself really present, attentive, & available - keeping my room open before and after school if possible. Being warm and well ... silly... I have a set of wigs/hats, toys that sing, roll, or light up. I have been known to to do the 'happy dance' when they delight me or snore loudly when I have lost their attention and tire of waiting...;-) I have been known to hug and call them silly names ... and my day is made when they accidentally call me mom.

    1. What a great contribution to the discussion, Debbie! I had several "OMGosh" moments while reading it. It reminds me of a story about famed teacher Ron Clark and how he baked for his kids EVERY night! I love that you take your kids out to dinner. Thanks so much for taking the time to share such a great story!

    2. I didn't know that name Ron Clark so googled him.. How is it that I have taught for almost 20 years here in California and haven't heard of him before now? He appears to have a lot of energy ;-)

    3. If you get a chance, check out the movie, The Ron Clark Story. Excellent!!

  7. I always found that reading and responding to students' writing in their journals was a good way to develop rapport. I agree with the earlier comment that a lot of what the author said was more secondary in nature. Many elementary students come to school already in love with their teachers, elementary teachers are very good at building relationships with their students because of the age of the students. I always found that as I read my students writing in their journal and especially when I took the time to respond to their writing and ask further questions, I could see the pride and respect grow. They knew that all the writing I was forcing on them in 4th grade wasn't just for me, but for us to form a bond.

    1. Journaling is a great relationship builder! As far as elementary vs. secondary, I think as you get up into upper elementary, maybe 4th and 5th grade, students sometimes lose that "love my teacher" mentality and relationship building becomes really important. Unfortunately, that's also the time that teachers begin to feel more pressured to "get it all covered". So awesome that you take the time to respond to their writing!


Comments make me smile! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...