I have a student, we'll call him Craig, whose name has come up constantly since he was a seventh grader. I can tell only three days in that he's full of energy, mischievous, and that the writing in my English class is not going to be his favorite thing.
I try to make a point to greet students at the door, especially early in the year when I am trying to learn names. Today, I asked him about his weekend on the way in, and he began telling me about an injury he received from one of his dangerous activities. I asked him a couple questions about another somewhat dangerous activity I thought he might be involved in, and he stood there and talked with me until the bell rang.
Obviously this was good for our rapport, which will make everything about instruction easier in the days to come. But there's something else. Today students generated their own ideas for writing. Craig is a kid who might sit there, claiming he has nothing to write about. But he immediately started working with ideas about one of his dangerous activities, and he did an awesome job.
It's important to remember that some kids have to talk before they can write. And in order to talk, they might need someone to listen.