Community Building in the Classroom August 18 2015, 0 Comments
The start of the new school year is a great time to establish a caring, strong classroom community. It’s important for students to feel a sense of community with their classmates and teacher. They’ll be more eager to come to school, ready to learn and grow. A strong classroom community also establishes an environment where students aren’t afraid to try new things and learn from their mistakes. The classroom becomes a safe environment where their ideas, experiences, and individual backgrounds are acknowledged and accepted.
How can you create a safe, welcoming, and nurturing classroom environment? The Center for Collaborative Classroom describes four basic principles:
- Build warm, stable, supportive relationships among and between students, teachers, and parents;
- Provide regular opportunities for students to collaborate with others;
- Provide regular opportunities for students to exercise “voice and choice,” (i.e., influence and autonomy);
- Articulate, discuss, and encourage reflection on core values and ideals
Community building through family relationships
Take every opportunity to get to know your students’ families. Make small talk during pick-up and drop-off times. Send home weekly or monthly classroom newsletters that describe what their kids are learning in school. Don’t just call home when a child is misbehaving; take the time to call home when a child has a particularly good day!
Community building through collaboration
Allow students to work on projects and assignments in small groups or pairs. They may need some time in the beginning of the school year to learn to trust one another. Do icebreakers in the first week of school to help children get to know and trust one another. See our free Getting to Know You BINGO activity below! Have students bring in pictures of their families or meaningful mementos from home to share with the class.
Community building through exercising “voice and choice”
Choice is a powerful tool that helps students feel autonomy and control over their own learning. Giving a child choice also send the signal that their ideas, opinions, and preferences matter to you and help shape their learning environment. Some simple ways to provide choice include having students help decide the classroom rules, giving options for end-of-unit assignments, and surveying students’ interests before deciding on topics for reading and writing units. You can also conduct whole-class morning meetings where anyone can share problems to solve or positive reflections about the classroom environment.
Community building through reflection on core values and ideas
Take time during the school day to discuss what qualities and characteristics you value in the classroom- kindness, empathy, honesty, trust, etc. Notice and point out when you see students demonstrating these positive traits, such as showing concern for others, displaying helpful behavior, resolving conflicts on their own, or including a new student into their group. Celebrate differences in the classroom, such as different family traditions, culture, or languages spoken at home.
How do you build your classroom community? Share in the comments below!
Need an idea for an icebreaker to build classroom community? Try Getting to Know You Bingo!