I teach a one-semester speech class that is required for graduation from our 400-student high school. One of my major goals in the first three or four weeks is to establish an atmosphere of trust. I randomly assign each student a 'best friend,' whom he or she will introduce to the rest of the class: 'I would like you to meet my very good friend. . . And the MOST interesting thing about my friend is . . . .' This is a lot less threatening and more entertaining than the 'uh, well' self-introduction. Another component that I really treasure is the 'Weekly Communication,' which makes up 10% of the final grade. The first day of class, I give all students manila envelopes, which I ask them to decorate in a way that communicates something about themselves. Some draw pictures; others create a montage of magazine photos; some tape on photos of themselves, friends, and family. All they have to do to receive an A is to DO it. Then each week, I ask that they put in their envelopes a 'communication' of at least 1/2 page. Some have chosen to write one week about parents. Others write about their dream car, dream date, dream house, or what they would do if they won the lottery. The important thing is that, if they write a half page and turn it in on time, they get an 'A.' Spelling, punctuation, and organization don't count. One-half page equals an 'A.' The hardest part is finding the time to read each one and write marginal comments or at least draw happy or sad faces in the margins. But it is worth it. We become a family in 18 weeks, and I really believe it significantly lowers the anxiety level! I think any teacher would have an altered perception of his/her students if he or she shared a 'weekly communication' with each of them.