5 practical ways to build rapport with your students: Activities 2 and 3

By on August 4, 2014

Welcome to August! For those of you already back to school. Welcome back! I hope your year is going well. For those of us starting in a few weeks (yes, I am teaching eighth graders this year), let's make these final weeks amazing. And for those of you who start in September: you have plenty of summer left. Go have fun and don't talk to me. Just kidding.

Although we are all starting school at different times, I'm sure we are beginning to plan (or continue to plan) for the new school year. Last week, I shared a rapport building activity I call Silent Alfa-Seating Chart. The purpose of this activity was to get students seated in alphabetic order, but I also wanted them to learn about following directions, working together, and group dynamics. This week, I will share two activities: the first is called Tour de _______ (insert your last name and say it with a French accent). In my case, I call it, Tour de LeMaster. Luckily my name is French. The second activity is called Autobagography. I learned this activity at a teacher conference I attended some years ago. 

Remember, the debrief is where the lessons are learned. No matter what activity you ask your students to do, I recommend following it up with a thoughtful debrief. You can ask questions like…

“What did we just do? Why did I ask you to do it?”

“What did this activity teach us?”

“What did you notice about your classmates’ behavior during this activity?”

“What was challenging about this activity?”


Activity: Tour de LeMaster (Use your own name here)

When: First or second day of class
Instructional Minutes: 20 minutes with a good debrief
Summary of Rules: Walk around the room and look at what is on the walls and tables.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Ask students to walk around your room and "read" your walls and tables. Leave things out that mean something to you.
  2. Instruct your students to pay attention to everything. Ask them to start formulating some conclusions. Encourage them to use the items in the room to make inferences about you and your life.
  3. After 10 minutes, ask the students to sit down.
  4. Once everyone is in their correct seat, begin your debrief.

The Debrief:
Ask students to explain what they saw. Don't allow them to analyze. At this point, you want them to share their observations. Then, ask them to make some conclusions about you as a teacher, professional, person, etc. When they say something about you, ask them why they think that. To add a little fun, don't tell them if they are right or wrong. Ask the students, "How many of you came to that same conclusion?" After students have had some fun making inferences and drawing conclusions, tell them a little about yourself.

At this point, you can talk about what we wear, what we say, and how we act also says things about who we are. You can explain that sometimes people are misunderstood because of the clothes they wear or the stickers they put on their books and binders. Explain that like these walls in the classroom, people read you. They will draw conclusions based on the information they have. You can continue down this path or turn the conversation to them and ask, "What would someone say about you based on what you put on your walls in your bedroom? This could be fun! Maybe have them write before they share their ideas.

The Purpose:

With this activity, I want students to learn more about me. I want them to learn about what I love and what I like to do for fun, but I also want them to learn that what we show the world could color how people think about us. Even if what we project isn't accurate, it may be the only thing someone sees or knows about a person. We have to be aware that "our walls" speak about who we are and that we should present ideas and beliefs that are true to us and our lives.


Next Steps:

I recommend introducing the autobagography activity after they take their Tour de ______. This activity is a blast. The students like it and I enjoy hearing about their lives. Here is how it works.


Activity: Autobagography

When: First week of school (or later for those of you who started in July)
Instructional Minutes: 1-2 class periods depending on how long students share their items
Summary of Rules: Bring in a brown paper bag with three small items in it. The items should mean something important to you or your family.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Ask students to go home and identify three important (and school appropriate) items that they would like to share with the class. The items need to fit in a brown lunch bag. If you want them to be creative, have them decorate their bags at home.
  2. The next day, have students speak for 1-2 minutes about their items. If you do not want to spend two class periods on this activity, consider having students present to groups of 6-8 (I call these boardroom groups). You will get through all the presentations if you ask students to present to boardroom groups.
  3. Students should explain each item in their bags.

The Debrief:
Ask students to think about why this simple activity is so important. What did we learn about each other? Why do we save little things as we go through life? What do these bags tell us about who we are as friends, students, and family members?

The Purpose:

I want my students to learn about each other. I want them to share their passions and experiences. I want them to celebrate their life experiences. I also want them speaking in my class. I want them to understand that speaking in class is important. Practicing the skill of public speaking even in small groups will help students develop college and career readiness skills.


Next Steps:

Get students writing. I think this is a great opportunity to teach biography. Through this activity, students begin to understand that everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a bag full of experiences that can be shared. One idea is to have students write about one of their items. Have them write a biography or autobiography that explains how one treasure in their bag became meaningful to them.


Join the conversation below and by letting us know how this activity went in your classroom, or share another great rapport building activity that you have used so that our community of inspired educators can learn and grow.

Share with Colleagues and Friends

The Conversation

Ms. Marks Ms. Marks 8/12/2014

This is terrific! How do i find out about the silent alpha seating chart?

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Mr. chambers Mr. chambers 8/13/2014

Just click on the words, the name of the strategy. It's linked to the info.

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Mr. chambers Mr. chambers 8/13/2014

Fabulous ideas! I will try them this week!

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Mr. LeMaster Mr. LeMaster 8/18/2014

Thanks, Mr. Chambers. I'm glad you like our rapport building activities. Please share with other educators you know. We want to help make this year excellent for you and your students!

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Ms. Brinkmann Ms. Brinkmann 8/19/2014

Both the silent alpha seating chart and Tour De_______ activities were very much enjoyed by my 7th grade class. Thank you for sharing.

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Mr. LeMaster Mr. LeMaster 8/25/2014

Wonderful! Glad you had success. My students liked the activities, too. At the end of my first day, I always ask my students to share one adjective that describes the first class. It is interesting what they say. Typically, the comments are all positive.

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