Building Classroom Rapport

Building Classroom Community by Welcoming Students and Prioritizing Relationships

I remember when, at the start of my first year teaching, I was excitedly decorating my classroom door and a veteran teacher stopped by. She gave me lots of words of encouragement but ended with, “You’ll regret how much time you spent on that door decoration.” Let me tell you, I’ve never once regretted time I’ve spent making my students feel welcome! A poster, a handwritten note, a text to a parent. These things make a difference in classroom culture. 

As the new school year gets closer, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to greet my students that first week. As math teachers, we start the year behind, don’t we? I’m already knee-deep in creating the first unit test but still, how will I welcome my students? 

I want to be mindful to remember this feeling. The feeling that my relationship with my students will always trump academics. Not because the academics don’t matter but because I know how important relationships are in learning academic content. 

I choose to spend the entire first week with no curriculum. No state standards, no pre-assessments, no calculators. In our classroom, we spend the first week building trust, rapport, and intentional relationships. How? I plan strategic ways to get to know my students and allow them to get to know each other. My students do STEM projects that I won’t find time for in April. We learn basic operating procedures for a safe and efficient environment. We will take the time to build the trust necessary in order to try hard things. I take intentional time during the first week for students to learn how to share their thinking so that when the math starts, we can learn from each other.

Building Rapport

As I mentioned above, I think a crucial use of our time during the first week of school is an intentional way to get to know my students and for them to get to know each other. I made a video to tell about my favorite one. It’s my favorite because kids love it and it is a non-scary activity for all kids to complete. While they are working on it, I walk around the room and talk to them. I begin learning names and making connections. I allow them to talk to each other and relax. 

Grab mine below…and I made it editable in case you need to change the categories to better fit your needs!


PROCEDURES. ARE. NOT. RULES. I do not have classroom rules. We follow school rules. We do have a set of standard operating procedures.

Effective procedures can increase safety and security in your classroom. Students know what to expect from you and your class –  consistency and stability. Routines provide comfort because it reduces the anxiety of the unknown. This does not mean class has to be boring or that you cannot have changes, surprises, or excitement. It does mean students have a few things they can count on, which leads to security.

It is not necessary to teach your classroom procedures all in one day. Or even to have them all taught in the first week. But look for opportunities to introduce the expectations in a fun, engaging way. 

STEM/Teambuilding Activities

1. Ping Pong Ball Rollercoaster

Supplies per group: 1 ping pong ball, a roll of tape, 16 drinking straws or popsicle sticks, 1 two by two piece of cardboard, 1 four-by-four piece of cardboard

Directions: build the fastest rollercoaster for your ping pong ball to travel on. 

2. The Longest Chain 

Supplies per group: 2 pieces of paper, a foot of masking tape, a pair of scissors

Directions: Using the supplies, create the longest paper chain you can. 

3. Cup Stack

Supplies per group: 6 plastic cups, 1 rubber band, 1 6-inch string per group member

Direction: using teamwork, build a tower with your cups. Then unstack the cups. The first group done, wins.

Building Rapport with Teambuilding

Back-to-school season and the first week of school are my absolute favorites! There is something so special about creating a classroom culture centered around the students and my relationships with the students. I hope your first week is amazing and filled with fun and intentional rapport-building!

Want to read more? Here is a post with Eight Free Ways to Build Classroom Community.

Building Classroom Rapport



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