Building positive student-teacher relationships during home-based learning (HBL)

Samurdhi Rupasinghe
Published on
June 17, 2021

At OWIS, teachers take pride in playing multi-faceted roles in the learning journey - as drivers of student engagement, motivators and mentors. With schools in Singapore having transitioned to home-based learning during this phase of heightened alert in 2021, we have refocused our attention to ensure we maintain our rapport with our learners while engaging with them from their homes.

We have taken our enthusiasm for learning and the rapport from our classrooms into our online classes, and our students have responded positively to that. Here are some other techniques we use at OWIS to form meaningful connections with students in our online classes.  

OWIS’ Strategies to Build Emotional Engagement with Students in HBL

  • Frequent check-in: We allocate time to meet one student before every lesson to check how they are doing. This is to ensure children get time to talk to the teachers one-on-one, and that we are able to communicate our support to them. I also personally recognise and praise all the work they are doing from home.

    In each Zoom class, we greet each student by name and engage their attention, to continue the  familiar morning routine they are used to. We compliment or show interest in minor details, such as a new haircut the child may have got. These might seem like small gestures, but every small gesture counts to make our young learners feel special. We celebrate birthdays and special school spirit days (such as Elmer Day, from the storybooks, which we recognised on May 28).

    We ensure that our students don’t feel like they are just squares in the Zoom gallery to us. They are people who we appreciate, care about and are always rooting for. 
  • Respect students’ voice and choice: Like our in-classroom approach, we give student agency importance in our online classes as well. For my primary grade, this implies discussing what types of stories they want to listen to or what games they want to play during social check-in time. We try to meet their expectations as far as possible, and I believe this helps them to feel included and appreciated in the learning process and that the teacher isn’t just talking “at them”. 

    We also encourage students to take ownership of their learning in other ways; for example, by asking them to create mini-lessons for each other, such as sharing a skill, art and craft or highlighting something about their home or culture. 
OWIS primary students creativity in the online lessons
OWIS primary students enjoy creativity in the online lessons


  • Leveraging virtual tools: In a bid to recreate the social, collaborative atmosphere of our classrooms at school, we use breakout rooms for students to interact with their friends. Online learning requires more focused attention and that can be emotionally and physically draining for students. So our online class schedule always includes virtual games, brain breaks and online dance parties to ensure students have fun virtually and their mental well-being is considered throughout the e-learning experience.
  • Recognising and appreciating student effort: Children should feel appreciated and we need to recognise that they are accomplishing something extraordinary in what is now known as “the new normal”. Through our school’s digital apps, we celebrate their achievements and their work. We continue to give daily reminders that we believe in them and their resilience.

  • Continual Self-Improvement: Even though e-learning is not new to our teachers, we understand that it may be for some students and their families. We are receptive to feedback from our students and parents and we acknowledge that we are on this journey together. We are constantly researching new ideas from different sources and brainstorming and sharing tips within our teacher community to make home-based learning as engaging as possible for our students.

These are just a few of the many techniques we use at OWIS to maintain our emotional connection with students going during this phase of online learning. Our classrooms run on the emotional fuel of kindness and respect, and as teachers, we model this behaviour, whether in class or online. 

According to the American Psychological Association, positive student-teacher rapport matters because they contribute to the social skills of the child, the academic performance and the resilience to a changing educational environment. We believe this is particularly true now in an evolving Covid-19 situation, where students have to adjust to different class set-ups, social distancing guidelines and time-tables as per the government advisory. In all this, positive and supportive teachers are the constant and the guiding light for children when the scene for learning changes.  

If you’re interested in learning more about the strong teacher-student relationships at OWIS and how that will benefit your child, please contact us.


About Author

Samurdhi Rupasinghe

Grade 1 Teacher

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