Starting the year right – building learning-focused relationships

If we want students who are confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners, how do we maximise the beginning of the school year to ensure this happens?


We often use words such as ‘learning’ and ‘learner’ with our students, yet how often do we stop and check that they understand what these words actually mean? It seems to me that with a new year before us we have an opportune time to unpack these concepts with our students. Learning-focused relationships with and between students will not happen by accident; they need to be nurtured through careful planning and design.

So what are some practical ways of doing this in the classroom? As education consultants working in schools, we are privileged to work with teachers to build and strengthen the learning focused relationships with their students. It is always a delight to see the creative and effective ways teachers have developed students’ identity as learners, and strengthened students’ voice and engagement in their learning. 

Here are some ideas you might like to explore with your students. 

  • Brainstorm what learning is and what it means to be a learner. If you are doing this with younger students it is useful to use visuals so that they are able to access the information at a later date.
  • Look up the words ‘learn’ and ‘learner’ in a dictionary or thesaurus.
  • Write a class definition for learning and refer to it and change it throughout the year.
  • Complete a Y-chart on learning.
  • Co-construct some criteria for effective learners.
  • Co-construct with your students a learning slogan such as ‘Learning is Mission Possible.’Annie_2_St_Marys_Rotorua_cropped
  • Discuss and design a door sign that establishes the classroom as a learning zone.
  • Talk about what bugs your students when they are learning. Talk about what students can do to solve these issues. 
Written by Barbara-Anne Alexander

Workshops – Assessment for Learning, a series of three workshops to engage learners and accelerate achievement

Tags: assessment for learning learning focused relationships

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