Instructional Practices

Following a constructivist pedagogical approach, Instructional Practices will take your teaching technique to the next level. Instructional Practices are teaching strategies that will allow you to create an environment for your students that is conducive to helping them construct meaning and understanding of the world around them. Each month STEMcoach points its focus on a different Instructional Practice. Past practices have included, Cooperative Learning, Teacher-Student Relationship, and Quality Questioning. Go ahead, try out a practice or two. We guarantee that mastering these practices will greatly impact your classroom.

Building a strong student–teacher relationship is a vital component of a successful classroom. It encourages students to work hard and please their teacher. The level of respect is raised in classrooms with strong relationships. Working to build these relationships also creates a sense of safety within the classroom. Students who have good relationships with their teacher are less likely to be afraid of making mistakes or giving wrong answers. They are confident that their classroom is a safe place for learning. In addition, building a strong relationship with your students will motivate them and encourage them to love your subject and content! We all need good role models. Teachers are in the perfect position to be just that!

FAQ Environment: StudentTeacher Relationship 6-8 Grade Level

1. So what is a studentteacher relationship?

A strong studentteacher relationship is a vital component of a successful classroom. It encourages students to work hard in order to please their teacher. A high level of respect in the classroom, toward the students and toward the teacher, is a direct result of a strong studentteacher relationship. Working to build strong relationships creates a sense of safety within the classroom. When students have a good relationship with their teacher, they are less likely to be afraid of making mistakes and giving incorrect answers. Students become confident learners when they know that their teacher believes in them and their abilities. Students are instantly motivated and tend to love a specific subject when you take the time to build a relationship with them. Students who have a good relationship with their teacher will perform at a higher level and enjoy school much more than a student who does not have this strong relationship.


2. What are the essential parts?

There are several things that a teacher can do to build a relationship with his or her students. The following serve as foundational strategies in building a strong studentteacher relationship:

A. Get to Know Your Students: A foundational component of getting to know your students is taking the time to get to know them. Conducting student interviews in which they tell you about themselves can do this. All of your students will have interests and hobbies that they would love to tell you about. Showing your students that you know about what they like and you are genuinely interested will create trust and a high level of respect from your students.

B. Individualize: Understanding what a child is going through and making classroom modifications that will meet these specific needs will lead to a strong studentteacher relationship. Often times, students have specific interests or needs that can increase their comfort level and confidence within the classroom. Recognizing ways to address a students individual interests or needs could be as simple as allowing students to select a unique reward rather than issuing a generic prize for a job well done. For some students, this could be as simple as a no homework pass or a free period to bring technology to school.

C. Watch What You Say: As a teacher, it is important to not only monitor what you say but also how you say things. Setting the appropriate tone for communication in your classroom will create an environment in which students know what to expect when they speak to you and when you speak to them. Being a positive communication role model will increase the comfort level in your classroom as well as the level of respect that your students have for you as a teacher. Establishing positive and consistent communication is essential in creating a strong studentteacher relationship. This is especially important with middle school students who communicate via texting and abbreviations with their peers. Teachers should constantly model positive and open communication.

D. Keep Trying to Reach Your Students: Regardless of the situation, students should always feel that you will be on their side and continue to help them grow no matter what struggles they might face. Throughout the year, every student will have ups and downs in their learning. As a teacher, it is important to be consistent and to model what a dependable relationship looks like. Students should feel like their teacher will always be there for them. In turn, students will strive to work hard and accomplish tasks in order to prove to their teacher that they, too, are dependable.

E. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition: Students are willing to hear feedback about their efforts when they know their teacher cares about them and are offering feedback as a way to help them be the best they can be. When they know their teacher believes in them and their efforts, students are motivated to continue to try and struggle through challenging tasks.

3. What is NOT considered a studentteacher relationship?

Simply having students in your class does not create a student-teacher relationship. Quality is often much more important than quantity when building relationships.

A. Studentteacher relationships are not built solely on the positive relationships that a teacher might have with a parent. Sometimes, teachers take the time to be a good communicator with parents, but fail to connect with the specific student. It is important to show students that you are invested in their education and will work with them and their parents to form a strong academic bond.

B. A studentteacher relationship does not mean that the teacher is a cool friend for the student to have. Maintaining the role of the adult mentor is vital in the success of a solid and strong studentteacher relationship.

C. Providing compliments and extrinsic rewards as alternatives to a sincere relationship do not result in achievement gains among struggling learners.

D. Being a students friend while listening to their peer drama and getting involved in it is not an indication of a strong studentteacher relationship.


4. What is the role of the teacher?


Teachers should be consistent in everything that they do. Students will feel calm and ready to learn when they know what to expect from their teacher.

A. Treat every student as an individual. When students believe that you are actually aware of their strengths and weaknesses and are willing to help them as a unique individual, they will tend to respond in a positive manner. Middle school students are seeking individuality and will respond positively when you recognize this and can empathize with this challenging time in their lives.

B. Show interest in what your students like to do, in and out of school. Attending a basketball game or a cheer competition will do amazing things for a studentteacher relationship. Be involved in your students’ lives.

C. Stay the course. Never let a student think that you have given up on them. Giving up on a student is a recipe for disaster.

D. Consider recognizing the effort and persistence shown by a student who is working through a challenge. Students will make the connection between effort and improvement and will develop an internalized sense of motivation. Be judicious in giving compliments for small efforts.


5. What are the students doing?

Simply stated, students are watching, listening, and following the example being set by the teacher. Since the teacher sets the tone for the classroom, students will quickly begin to copy his or her behavior toward adults and toward other students. Students will also begin to love coming to school because of the acceptance and support they receive from their teacher. Young students always want to feel loved and supported. Students will ask questions since they know the classroom is a safe place and they are sure that their teacher will not belittle or embarrass them in any way. Students will follow the teachers directions out of respect. The teacher who has strong studentteacher relationships is a hero. He or she is the role model that every student needs.

Classroom Observation

6. When an observer walks into the room, what will they see?

The observer should sense a feeling of complete safety in a classroom in which the teacher has strong studentteacher relationships. Most likely, there is a place in the classroom where students are able to share their personal interests. Students could ask questions and share answers without being concerned about what might happen if they are wrong. Students will not make fun of each other or laugh at other classmates. If behavior becomes an issue, the teacher has to do very little to get his/her students back on task. The level of respect that flows between the teacher and students is extremely high. The observer might also hear the teacher talking to a specific student about a soccer game that the student had over the weekend.

7. What variations of a studentteacher relationship might I see?

There are hundreds of ways to build a strong studentteacher relationship. The following are a few examples:

A. Student Interview-Students are given a time to share facts about themselves with the class.

B. Me in a Bag-Students place objects into a bag that represent something that they enjoy or a fact about himself or herself. Students share the items and talk about why they selected them. For older students, this could be something simple like a family photo, instead of a bag of items. In addition, this is a great time to integrate technology such as allowing students to create PowerPoints about their favorite things.

C. Wall of Fame-The teacher designates a spot in the classroom to display the successes of her students, in and out of the classroom. Even the older students appreciate this kind of recognition when the studentteacher relationship is developed!

D. Lunch Bunch-The teacher invites a small group of students to eat lunch in the classroom with him or her. During this time, the students’ interests can be discussed.

E. Event Attender- When possible, attend the extracurricular events of your students. Nothing makes a student happier than seeing his or her teacher at a recital or game.


8. How will I know it is a successful instructional practice with students?

Answer: Success will be seen and felt instantly. The neatness and accuracy of students’ work as well as positive behavioral changes will occur. Both students and teachers will feel better about coming to school because they are invested in the people that they are spending their day with. The results will be clear and easy to see.

9. What are the main challenges?

Some challenges may include the willingness of the teacher to use class time to devote to non-academic activities. Since time is a constant battle, some teachers dont feel that they have the time to devote to doing interest inventories, etc. Other challenges can include the willingness of the students to open up to the teacher. Building studentteacher relationships takes time. It takes patience on the part of the teacher for these relationships to build.

10. What are the work arounds?

Teachers are not always comfortable taking the time to build relationships with their students. However, the time spent bonding with your students will pay for itself ten-fold. Fortunately, most learners respond extremely well to building relationships. Students not only enjoy relationships with their teacher, but they also tend to be better learners who grow more academically than those students without a successful studentteacher relationship. The classroom teacher must be patient and diligent in his or her approach with building relationships, and the teacher will find that it pays off when they do.

A. Do not expect every student to be comfortable with opening up to their teacher instantly. Sometimes, students are shy and reserved and need time to open up. Other students might feel that they are too old to build a relationship with their teacher. The teacher must be patient and give these students the space and support they need.

Supporting Documents:

Getting to Know You Lesson Ideas

Getting to Know You: Activities for Young Students

To Learn More: Suggested Articles, Books and Videos:

Book: Boynton, M., & Boynton, C. (2005). The Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving Discipline Problems. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Book: Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D., & Pollock, J.E. (2001). Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Article: (2002). Building Effective StudentTeacher Relationships. Retrieved from

Article: Teacher Student Relationships are Really Important!! Retrieved from

Article: Building Student Teacher Relationships. Retrieved from

Article: “Focus on Effectiveness: Research-based Strategies, Reinforcing Effort”
This article about Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition and the impact on student achievement.

Project Based Learning


 Sustained Inquiry

Quality Questioning

Student-Teacher Relationship

Prepared Environments Coursera Video Part 1

Prepared Environments Coursera Video Part 2

Prepared Environments Coursera Video Part 3

Prepared Environments Coursera Video Part 4

Prepared Environments Coursera Video Part 5

Cooperative Learning