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We had our first day of school last Thursday and, like most teachers, I had students do some writing to share information about themselves.

In my Long-Term English Language Learner Support class, I had students complete this letter writing frame; in my IB Theory of Knowledge classes I had students make a small poster sharing one thing they’d like me to know about themselves and draw a picture representing who they are; and, in my ELL US History classes, I just had them write about the best thing that happened to them over the summer (the vast majority of students in those classes have been my students in previous years). After students shared what they wrote with two students they didn’t know well, they turned it in to me.

In all my previous years, I would then take quick glances at them and stick the sheets in a file.

This year, however, I thought about something my talented colleague Nichole Scrivner shared with us at our faculty meeting earlier in the week (see WE HAD OUR FIRST STAFF MEETING OF THE YEAR TODAY & HEARD GREAT ADVICE FROM AN EXCELLENT TEACHER).

One practice she mentioned was handing back student introductory letters with a short note on it responding to something they had written. She has found that it seems to make an impact on student – they see that she actually took the time to read what they wrote.

That made sense to me.

So, this weekend, while I was binge-watching “Jack Ryan” with my wife, I had the letters and posters out, along with a bunch of sticky-notes.

As I went through them, I would write one sentence on the sticky-note responding to what the student wrote. For a student who wrote they played soccer, I might say “Cool! If you are going to play here at school, please get me a schedule so I can go to a game!” or, to a student who wrote they had a hard time in math class, I might write, “Math is hard for me, too, but we have great math teachers who will help you here!”

It didn’t take long – at all!

I’ll return their letters and posters on Tuesday with the sticky-notes, ask them to take the sticky-notes off and return their letters and posters to me. It will be interesting to see how students react to my responses.

I’m not suggesting this is a particularly innovative strategy, but I think it will help get this new year off to a good start.