Collective Wisdom | Classroom Connection: Roll Call Response

Ideas & advice from teachers

I used to appreciate that my students never talked in class, yet I was concerned that the lack of response meant they weren’t connecting with me. I knew I had to build a bond of trust with them. My answer was Roll Call Response.

Instead of a standard roll call—“Mary?” “Here.”—I present my dancers with a question of the day. As we sit in a circle, I ask who has an answer (so that the dancers whose names fall at the beginning of the alphabet don’t have to go first).

After I began Roll Call Response, I quickly realized what sort of questions were the best prompts for students: “What are you excited about right now?” “What are you doing this weekend?” “What’s one thing I don’t know about you?”

Whether dancers were shy or outgoing, they loved it. My 6- to 7-year-old students were so enthusiastic that they asked to do Roll Call Response every week. My teens gave exceptionally guarded answers at first, but opened up as they became more comfortable. I now know all about baby cousins, favorite stretching techniques, pet names, and more.

The exercise takes between 5 and 10 minutes. I strategically place roll call directly after the warm-up so that latecomers will be included. This provides time for tired students to recharge, and I can skip it if the lesson is going to be a busy one.

With Roll Call Response, I have gotten to know my students better and there has been an unmistakable improvement in rapport. Speaking in front of the class every week has helped some dancers to forge connections with their peers—oftentimes a classmate will ask questions about someone else’s response—and others display more confidence during the entire lesson. The bonus is that I never forget to take roll. —Holly Derville-Teer


Holly Derville-Teer is the owner/director of Hillsboro [OR] Dance Center.