Activities to Connect With Kids and Unveil Hidden Talents!

Andrea BitnerBlog, Connect Better


  • Often you can learn from your time away from school and discover things that would improve your skills as an educator.
  • Consider the ways that you make children shine outside of academics. What talents do kids have that you can celebrate?
  • Discover new ideas to celebrate kids at your school.

Connect with Your Students: Seeing Someone Sparkle

I visited NYC with my family for the first time in years last week.  As we oohed and ahhed over the bustling streets of Times Square, we stumbled upon Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  As avid theater fans, it was on my daughter’s list of places to experience!  When we sat down to enjoy our breakfast, our waiter Michael walked over to greet us.  He was funny, charismatic, polite, and efficient.  He wore a black t-shirt with a matching apron and faded street sneakers so that he could move effortlessly to serve his patrons.  On any given day, one may think that he was happiest when he was serving.

Yet a few minutes after we met, we were introduced to a whole new Michael.  A D.J. announced his name.  “Michael, you’re up for the next song!  Please report to the microphone booth!”  Within moments, our reserved, polite water morphed into a superstar!  “Grease Lightning” blared through the speakers.  Michael’s incredible singing voice bellowed out the words.  The entire restaurant sang along.  His eyes sparkled.  His confidence skyrocketed.  At that moment, we were seeing Michael as the best version of himself.  I was so proud!

Place Kids on the Stage

This experience pushed me to remember that many of our students and families have hidden talents like Michael.  I always say that those of us who teach didn’t fall into this profession. We were called to it.  It is our obligation to help the students and families of the world not only discover their talents for themselves but to place them on the stage where others can see them too.

It is our obligation to help the students and families of the world not only discover their talents for themselves but to place them on the stage where others can see them too. Click To Tweet

How do we do this?  Here are a few ideas below!

Daily Meetings with Voting Boards

When students enter the classroom in the morning, we have a voting board with a question of the day.  It varies from “what’s your favorite food,” to ” would you prefer to watch YouTube or Tik Tok?”  Other days, it connects directly to the topic of a story we are reading, or how they may feel about subjects at school.  After students vote, we meet for 5 minutes to review the results and expand upon them!  You will be surprised at how students open up to one another when paired to discuss the reasons behind their votes. They gain confidence in sharing with the larger group.  Many talents reveal themselves as the year goes on through those morning meetings!

“People Who Are Proud of Me” Mats

If you are curious about your student’s life at their home away from “home,” ask them to bring in photos of people who are proud of them.  Doing so allows them to reveal more than their immediate family dynamic.  You can ask follow-up questions about why they may be proud of these supporters as well!  Post these photos around the room so they remember that their largest influences are always watching and believing in them as you do!

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Turkey Day Home Visits

Every year, we work with local resources and the rotary club to get gift cards or coupons for free turkeys, along with all of the typical American fixings!  About a week before Thanksgiving, we set up our teaching teams into groups of 2-4, with a driver and assistants. We meet about two hours before the delivery time at school and box the vegetables, stuffing, pies, and potatoes.   Each team is given 10 local school families to deliver to.  We choose our most at-risk students and families we believe would benefit from this teacher-to-home connection!   We let them know we are coming by to provide some fun foods for Thanksgiving and stay to meet them for about 15-20 minutes.   The respect and trust that is earned through this experience last for years!  Seeing students in their element at home reveals many hidden family talents!  We see artwork from Mom, Dad’s woodshop, sports nets set up out front, and so much more.

School Variety Show

Every spring, our school hosts a student variety show.  Students are given 3-minute time slots to showcase dancing, singing, gymnastics, magic, sports tricks, or comedic acts! We have a systematic process where they turn in their slips or Google forms with an outline of their plan, the music, etc. for approval.  They are given about a month to prepare.  A week before the show, they come in for a dress rehearsal.  Families and the student body are invited to attend the event.  Each year, the show has a different theme and the talents that reveal themselves on that stage are nothing short of astounding!  A fan favorite is also the teacher’s act as well!  It is a fantastic way to allow our kids to shine outside of the four classroom walls.

Semester Bar Graphs

Each semester, we post a bar graph to display who is involved in specific sports, clubs, activities, arts, and jobs inside and outside of school.  This allows my entire caseload to connect with one another and view who they may see at some of these activities.  It also allows me to set up a time to visit many of them at one of these events and save time! I encourage you to try this with your kids.  It validates who they are inside and outside of your classroom house and exemplifies your constant support for their ever-changing interests.  It also encourages them to try new things!

Learn Outside of School

I will never forget my experience at Ellen’s StarDust Diner.  I hope that Michael, and many of his colleagues there, achieve their dreams of becoming Broadway Stars.  If I met Michael without the support of the music, I would have never known he had such an amazing hidden talent!  Let’s give our students the same opportunity.

Pierre Corneille said, ” The fire which seems extinguished often slumbers between the ashes.”  What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to reignite that fire within each of our kids every single day.

Let’s Connect!

Reach out to me anytime for more connection ideas!  When you try them, I am always here to support you and celebrate!  Email me at:  Cheers from all of us, NYC, and Michael, for an amazing school year ahead!

About Andrea Bitner

Andrea Bitner is a proud wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. She lives on the East Coast among some of the fastest speaking people in the country! Through her twenty years in public education, she has worked with students in grades K-12 from all around the world. Her work as an English Language Teacher, Reading Specialist, Literacy Coach, Presenter, and High School English Teacher inspired her to continue to share the great news: Learning a Second Language is an asset, not a handicap! She hopes to inform, influence, and inspire all readers and leaders to continue to be a champion for all stakeholders in the education community around the world.