Helping New Students Feel Welcome in the Classroom
Updated: Feb 23
Transitions are constant in the classroom. Students learn to move from grade to grade and even from activity to activity. However, it is a whole different experience when students transition from one class to another halfway through the year. As teachers, we can help change this daunting experience into an exciting one.
Holly Glenn, a Spanish teacher from Virginia, shared her experience with welcoming new students to the classroom.
"A friendly demeanor is the number one way to put new students at ease. Taking some time to let your students get to know about you, your family life, your interests and hobbies and why you love teaching is a great way to open communication with new students. Interactive activities that allow students to share things about themselves are also great.
"Getting your students talking with each other, moving around the room and feeling comfortable with the space they are in can set the scene for engagement in the future. When individual work time is happening, I also like to do some short interviews with my students and have a check in with them about how they feel about what they are learning, the class environment, goals they may have for the school year ahead. I like to repeat this at least once a grading period. Doing this can sometimes take up to a week to get through all students, but it has always been worth the time to establish rapport with my students."
Holly also shared an experience she had where her efforts to welcome a student changed their experience.
"Jessica moved into our school district and into my classroom in March, with just a few short months left in the year. Peer relationships had been developed, the rhythm of class procedures and expectations were running like clockwork and of course the progress on the class material was very far along. It was a difficult time for Jessica to join a new school and new class, but even more challenging because she was coming from a different country. I placed Jessica where there was an open desk in a group of 3 other students. I could quickly see that, although the other students were not unkind, their own established relationships were making it difficult for Jessica to feel part of the group.
"I decided to give the whole class new seating assignments and to change up the desk arrangement. We also made class wide introductions through some fun activities. I also had everyone in the class prepare a short presentation about where their family roots originated, and this allowed Jessica to comfortably share with everyone about her home country. We all learned so much about Jessica and each other and new relationships were formed throughout the class."
When asked what advice she has for future teachers, Holly said, "the most important thing a teacher can do is take genuine interest in their students. It is always time well spent when teachers plan for more personalized interaction with their students. Something as simple as greeting them at the door can mean a lot to students. I like being seen around the school in other contexts as well: in the hallway before school, after school, and in between classes, at a concert, at a football game, at the library. Seeing your familiar happy face in other contexts can make the wider school context much less intimidating. We can set the tone when we are open, friendly and kind."