1. Student surveys - This is a way for the teacher to know what their student’s interests are, their background, their strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. This is also an opportunity for students who are not vocal to express who they are in writing.
2. Observe your students - Teacher can observe how students interact with each other as well as cliques and conflicts among students. Seating charts could be based on these observations. Extroverts should not sit next to each other nor should students who don’t get along.
3. Talk to your students - Keep lines of communication open. A teacher can learn a lot about their students by having a conversation with them. If the student shares something with the teacher, the teacher should reciprocate to establish a connection.
4. Know your student's’ past academic performance - By looking at past grades or IEPs, the teacher can understand a student’s struggles and what areas/subjects a student needs help with.
5. Get involved in your student’s extracurricular activities - Many students participate in extracurricular activities. Showing interest in a student’s interest outside of the classroom makes the teacher more approachable.
6. Classroom bulletin board - Have a bulletin board in the classroom with a student of the week. The special student can bring in pictures of their family and friends, make a list of favorite things and things they want to do in the future like a bucket list. The student will feel special for the week and the teacher (and peers) will get to know that student.
7. Play get-to-know-you and icebreaker games - The teacher will get to know the students, the students will get to know each other and everyone will feel more comfortable in the classroom and more willing to participate in classroom activities.
8. “What’s in a name” activity - Have students write a brief paragraph about their name and a little bit about themselves. It’s an easy and fun way for everyone to learn each other’s names.
9. Spin a classroom web activity - Have the students sit in a circle. Take a ball of yarn and have the person holding the ball of yarn to tell the class one unique thing about themselves. The teacher can go first to model what to do. Then the yarnball is tossed to another person across the circle and they share something unique. After all of the students have shared something, a large web should have formed within the circle.
10. Get to know your student’s family - Getting know your students at the personal level will help the teacher to build a sense of community in the classroom.
11. Learning style inventory - Have students fill out a learning style inventory. This will inform the teacher of a student's’ learning style and what teaching strategies would best suit the needs of these learners.
All of these strategies will help the teacher to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of his or her students.