Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Connecting with Students through Opening Questions

The first 5 minutes are the most important part of a class or meeting. The closer students feel to their teacher and learning environment, the more engaged they can be in their learning experience. 

Engaging students while meeting through Zoom can be difficult. the teacher-student separation is widened by the teleconferencing chasm/. It is up to the teacher to create an environment that supports their students' interest in learning.

I have found that the key to connecting with students is to engage them in discussion at the beginning of class.  At first, I would ask them "How are you?" or "What is exciting you this week?"  This was useful for the first few weeks, but I realized that this was a prime opportunity to build community.   

The tough part was developing new questions. My well of creativity quickly ran dry so I Googled "icebreaker questions" and found a fountain of phrases.  I didn't want to ask questions that were too personal but still interesting.  This could be the perfect opportunity to begin class with some Bell Ringers.  Asking a question relevant to what we would be discussing would be an effective way to get things started.

These are the questions I have used throughout this semester.  They are in chronological order. Most of them came from Amber at Learn Grow Blossom.  
  • If you were to write a book, What would be the topic?
  • If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
  • What class do you wish we offered at UNI? Why?
  • How do you help others?
  • Where would you like to travel?
  • What is one thing you could do all day long without stopping?
  • What do you think is your hidden talent?
  • What is your favorite type of music?
  • What is the hardest part about being a kid?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What are 3 things you cannot live without?
  • What Bugs You?
  • When are you MOST creative?
  • What would YOU ask a teacher?
  • What do you like to do outside?
  • If you could travel back in time 3 years and visit your younger self, What advice would you give yourself?
  • Which country would you like your class to collaborate with? What would you like them to do? (preceded a discussion on Global Collaboration)
  • Have you ever used QR codes? How could you use QR codes with your students? (set the stage for our QR Codes lesson.)
  • If you could select a nickname, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite card, board, or computer game?

Do Opening Questions Make a Difference?

While I don't have any survey data yet, I have felt a closer connection with my students this semester than in the past. Review the questions that I have asked.  These are questions that unveil interesting information about each student but they don't pry into personal secrets.  My students have told me that they feel a personal connection with me. Mind you, I have never met most of these students in person but we have a connection. Some of them say that they feel closer to me than any of their other professors.

Yes, they DO make a difference!

How are you opening your classes?  What has been your students' reactions to your opening activities?
Share your ideas in the Comment section below.


NOTE: I completed some research where I asked my students about their reaction to this Opening Question Activity.  It will be shared in a future posting and ultimately in an educational research journal.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I am a big fan of asking opening questions! I think the examples you shared would be a great way to build the classroom community and encourage students to share their ideas with others.

    In the kindergarten classroom that I work in, the classroom teacher writes a question of the day on the dry erase board everyday. When the students come into the classroom, part of their morning routine is to read the question and write their name uder the answer that best suits them. Sometimes, the question is about the weather ("Do you think it will rain today?") Other times, it may be something more personal ("How do you feel today?) These questions help students transition into the school day and give them reading and writing practice right away in the morning.

  3. This is brilliant. As a prospective educator, I would like to implement this concept in my classroom because I believe it will allow me to develop a stronger bond with my students.

  4. I like these opening questions because they are easy to answer and student focused. I attend school virtually and would appreciate more conversations like this even if it was geared more towards the course content. I can appreciate an ice breaker especially if it helps me to learn more about what I have in common with my cohorts.
    With the change of weather we are seeing in Iowa, I think I might ask elementary students if they have put their winter coat away yet or have worn sandals or shorts outside yet.


Please share your ideas on this topic.