Charting Positive Strengths to Build Relationships

A simple system to increase communication and build trust between educators and students
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About This Strategy

This strategy, which originated from Donald Graves, a well-regarded expert in the field of writing education,  is a way for educators to assess how well they know their students and to ensure they are communicating with students in ways that build trust and rapport with students. When using this strategy, teachers ensure that they're identifying positive traits about each of their students, and then take it a step further with ensuring that they're communicating these positive traits to students. This supports positive relationship-building between the teacher and the students, which accelerates student growth; similarly, modeling positive relationship-building between teacher and student is a great way to teach students how to interact with each other and build relationships with peers. It is important to use this strategy throughout the school year as it is important to continuously strengthen the relationship between the teacher and the student. It can not be just a beginning of the year activity. Through repeated use of this strategy, students will trust that their teacher knows them and has their best interests in mind, students will succeed academically even when things are hard because they trust their teacher, and students begin to interact with peers in positive ways because it has been modeled with each individual student. This strategy also ensures that each student is given positive 1:1 feedback from their teacher. It is easy to fall into a routine as an educator and not realize how long it has been since you last engaged in a meaningful conversation with some of your students; this strategy supports teachers in making those meaningful conversations a priority to maximize student achievement. 

Implementation Steps

  1. Divide a chart paper into three columns and label the columns as indicated in the template in the resources section.

  2. List all the students in your class in the first column vertically.

  3. Pay attention to your students' behavior and interests in order to gather information about their unique traits. Some opportunities for observation include:

    • On the playground

    • During group-work

    • During transition times in the classroom

    • Responses to interest inventories

    • During 1:1 conferencing 

    • During exploratory classes like art, music, PE, etc.

    • During breakfast and lunch conversations

    • At the end of the day, during pick-up time

    • During class celebrations

  4. Ensure that you are gathering information about all of your students. Some students do not share as much as others or are reserved in the classroom. To get to know these students better, teachers might ask:

    • What kinds of things do you like to do outside of school?

    • What are things you like to read or write about?

    • I noticed you drew a picture of ____, tell me more about that.

    • What kinds of foods do you like/eat at home?

    • Tell me about your family

    • What is your after school routine like?

    • What does your family do during this time of the year?

    • You said you were going to ___ after school, tell me more about that.

  5. Write something unique or special about each student in the second column as you discover it through observations or conversations.

  6. Add a check or star in the 3rd column if you have communicated that unique or special fact about them. Some ideas of when and where to communicate these facts with students include: 

    • During 1:1 Conferencing (often done during independent reading and writing times)

    • On the way to lunch/recess/exploratory classes

    • During breakfast and lunch

    • Ask a student to stay back before recess and speak to them before you send them out

    • In a note to the student - they will like it even more in an envelope

    • During Morning Meetings

    • During a Student-Parent Conference

  7. Optionally, teachers might choose to add a 4th Column and keep track of when you have communicated this unique or special fact to the students' families.

    • This would build school-family bonds and would make students feel recognized and supported.

EL Modification

This strategy can be used to support EL students who have additional challenges with vocabulary by speaking or writing the message to the student in the student's native language. 

Modifications: 

  1. Speak the feedback in students' native language or use a translator tool such as googletranslate

  2. Create typed or handwritten feedback to give to the student. This can give them more processing time to read and reread the feedback. For students who are able to translate, but do so at a slower speed, this allows them time to translate words to understand what is being said to them.

  3. Add pictures to support written feedback if the student struggles with vocabulary or language in order to add meaning to the words.

Special Education Modification

Effective use of the Don Graves Strategy may require a variety of skills: memory functioning, verbal skills, listening skills. In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, consider the following modifications.

Modifications:

  1. Create typed or handwritten feedback to give to the student. This can give them more processing time to read and reread the feedback. 

    • Add pictures to support the text if the students struggle with vocabulary or language in order to add meaning to the words.

Charting Positive Strengths to Build Relationships for Distance Learning

This strategy could be used with distance learning to build connections with students. It is a unique way to engage in conversation with students to build relationships during asynchronous instruction and provides authentic ways to connect with a student.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Find the best way to communicate the unique or special fact during distance learning. Listed in suggested ideal order, some ideas include:

    • 1:1 video conference meetings

    • Student-parent video conference after school

    • Video feedback or message using a recording tool such as flipgrid or loom

    • Small group feedback during a breakout session

    • Leaving comments on students work that they submit through the school's learning management system

Charting Academic Positive Strengths

This strategy can be adjusted to be used as a great tool for educators to assess how well they know their students academically to ensure they are communicating specific academic feedback.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Divide a chart paper into 3 columns

  2. List all the students in your class in the first column vertically

  3. Write an academic strength for one particular subject area

    • Reading

    • Math

    • Writing

    • Science

    • Social Studies

    • Technology

    • Exploratories (Art, Music, etc.)

  4. Add a check or star in the 3rd column if you have communicated that academic strength

Charting Student Goals and Growth

This strategy can be adjusted to be used as a great tool for educators to assess how well they know their students academically to ensure they are communicating specific next steps for student growth.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Divide a chart paper into 3 columns

  2. List all the students in your class in the first column vertically

  3. Write an academic strength for one particular subject area:

    • Reading, math, writing, science, social studies, technology, Exporatories (Art, Music, etc.)

    • When and where you might observe these things:

      • Group discussions

      • Student responses during lessons

      • During 1:1 Conferences

      • Visible thinking on assignments

      • When a student asks for help and talks about what they do or don't understand

  4. Add a check or star in the 3rd column if you have communicated that specific feedback to the student.

  5. Support students to write a reflection on an index card or sticky note. Sentence frames for this reflection could be: 

    • This feedback helped me ________

    • Now I know I need to ____________

    • The next time I _________, I will _______________

  6. Consider displaying an anchor chart where students can post their card or sticky note for all to see; after a week, students can revisit the chart to see if they've made progress on their goal. 

 

Tech Tools

Google Docs

  • Google Docs is an online word processor (part of Google Apps) that allows you to store, create and edit documents collaboratively in a web browser. 

  • This tech tool support this strategy when making the Don Graves Template to fit your needs or using the template provided

ScreenCastify

  • Screencastify is a Chrome Extension that allows users to quickly record a video of  whatever is on the screen. Users can include narration and an embedded webcam. Videos can be downloaded, saved to Google Drive, or to YouTube. 

  • This tool supports this strategy because it is an easy way to give video or audio feedback on student work that is on the computer.

Online Voice Recorder

  • Online Voice Recorder is a website that allows users to quickly record an audio recording of just their voice. Users can edit the narration easily and audio clips can be downloaded or saved to google drive.

  • This tool supports this strategy because it is an easy way to record audio to give feedback to students.

Culturally Responsive Learning Alignment

This strategy can be adjusted to be used as a great tool for educators to assess how well they know their students' culture to ensure they are communicating, celebrating, and honoring specific parts of each student's culture in the classroom.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Divide a chart paper into 3 columns

  2. List all the students in your class in the first column vertically

  3. Write cultural information about each students

    • Food

    • Clothing

    • Holidays

    • Music

    • Traditions

    • Language

  4. Add a check or star in the 3rd column if you have communicated, celebrated, honored the student in the classroom through their cultural values. This could include:

    • Read alouds about any element of their cultures

    • Guest speakers

    • Bringing in food to try

    • Bringing in cultural elements

    • Having discussions about the different ways students celebrate

    • Acknowledging culture outside of your own as a teacher

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, the following resource from The Responsive Classroom was consulted.