38 Questions you can ask students at the start of the year

Sarah, Teacher

The start of the new school year is a period of excitement and anticipation for students and teachers alike.

Students entering your class are wondering: how will I feel in this class?  Will my teacher understand me?  Will I be comfortable amongst my peers?

Whether you’ve been teaching forever or are a newbie, it’s a critical time that sets the tone for the rest of the year.

Getting to know our students and setting expectations early on can help the rest of the year run more smoothly.

We’ve compiled a list questions you can use with your students to build relationships, encourage growth mindset, support social and emotional learning, and set learning goals.

Relationships

Positive teacher-student relationships promote a sense of belonging and encourage students to participate cooperatively.

A helpful starting point for building relationships with students is to get to know them better. The following questions are designed to help you do just that. 

  1. What's one skill you have that makes you unique?
  2. What's one goal you're currently working on outside of class?
  3. What's your favorite activity to do outside of class?
  4. What's your greatest strength?
  5. What's your superpower?
  6. What three words best describe you?
  7. When was a time that you were really proud of yourself?
  8. What talents or special abilities do you have?
  9. What is a big dream or goal you have for the future?
  10. If you could invent your own holiday, what would it be?
  11. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
  12. What is something most people love but you dislike?

Growth mindset

According to leading researcher Carol Dweck, growth mindsets involve people believing their abilities can be developed through hard work and dedication.

The benefits of growth mindsets include:

  • Higher motivation
  • Greater ability to take risks
  • Lowered stress and mental health challenges
  • Better relationships
  • Higher performance

Below are 10 questions to promote a growth mindset in your classroom. 

  1. What is a growth mindset? Why is it important?
  2. What's one mistake you made in class today? What could you do to improve next time?
  3. Explain what you do when you do not understand a skill or concept you are learning
  4. What mistake did you make today? What can you learn from that?
  5. What's one change you have made recently to become a better learner?
  6. What goal are you currently working on with your learning? How did you work towards that today?
  7. Explain what it means to be a good learner in this class
  8. In what ways were you challenged today and why?
  9. How much effort did you put into learning today?
  10. How do you respond to constructive feedback?

Social and emotional learning

The importance of social and emotional learning for creating well-adjusted people are well documented. Teachers are uniquely placed to support students social and emotional development. 

The following questions can be a helpful starting point for encouraging discussions and personal reflection in class.

  1. What are some things you can do to be a good listener?
  2. What makes you a good friend?
  3. What makes a good team?
  4. How do you problem solve when working with others?
  5. What does being a good community member mean to you?
  6. Think of a good friend. What are their qualities?
  7. What does kindness mean to you?
  8. How do you show kindness to yourself?
  9. What are two things you could do to show kindness to others?
  10. What acts of kindness could we undertake as a class?

Goal setting

The start of the academic year is a good point to think about our goals and set intentions for the year ahead. This is true of both teachers and students.

The following questions are intended to help students set meaningful goals which can be reviewed after a period of time. These might be project focused, weekly, monthly or yearly.

  1. What are two goals you have for this project / week / month / semester / year?
  2. How will you know if you are meeting your goals?
  3. What do you think are three keys to success in meeting your goals?
  4. Who can you ask for help in achieving your goals?
  5. What will you do if you are not meeting your goals?
  6. How will you feel when you achieve your goals?

Summary

The start of the year is an exciting time for you and your students. 

It’s the perfect opportunity to get to know your students on a deeper level. 

The better you know them, the more you can calibrate your teaching to meet their needs and improve learning outcomes.

Try these questions for yourself. Find them all in your Ziplet account.

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