I’m going to let you in on my secret. In this post, you’ll find the top ten ways I build classroom community. I love when October hits and my class starts to really feel and operate like a family. I’m sharing these tips with you so that you can make your class feel like a (big) family, too.
Some teachers live for the month of September. They love setting up their classroom and they live for that fresh start feeling. I am not in this camp of people. I don't actually love September. What I love: is October. That family feeling doesn't usually happen until October and, when it does, I fall in love with teaching all over again.
Comments, Concerns & Questions Box
On the first day of school I introduce our comments, concerns and questions box. I give students examples for some of the things that they might put into the box.
Throughout the year, as students share ideas with me I encourage them to write it down and put it in the box. I recommend doing this for two reasons. First, it helps me remember their ideas or suggestions. Second, it shows students that I value their input.
At the end of the week, we review any comments, concerns or questions as a class. I read them first to ensure that they are good to go to share out loud. If they are decision items, we make the decisions together during our morning meeting.
Bring & Inspire
What is bring & inspire? Basically, it’s show and tell for big kids! We renamed it so that it sounded cooler but it isn’t much different than what I used to do with my students when I taught grade one.
The last day of the week, students have the opportunity to do a quick show and tell. They can share a photo, a video, bring in something to show off or do a live performance.
This is a lovely way to build classroom community because we get to learn more about each other’s lives outside of school. For this reason, I also occasionally participate so that students can get to know me better, too.
Greetings & Goodbyes
This tip is nothing new but serves as a reminder. Greet your students with a BIG ol’ smile and send them off at the end of the day, in the same way.
As a bonus, I also get a student to sign up to be a class greeter. They stand at the door and greet students by name as they enter.
This way, students get a double greeting and it helps them to connect with each other, too. Double classroom community win!
Having leadership roles or classroom jobs is a great way to build classroom community. It helps students take ownership in the classroom and shows them that it is their space too.
I include many different types of leadership roles in my classroom to ensure that all students can find a role that appeals to them. Some of our class jobs include morning meeting leader, classroom greeter, custodial staff, and student helpers.
At our school, we have table seating instead of desks. Although this can be a challenge for some students that struggle to stay in their own space and focus on their work, overall, I absolutely love it.
I believe that classroom set up can support classroom community building. I light up when I see students jumping in to help their table mates.
Group & Partner Work
It's no secret that teaching students how to work together sets them up for future success. What it also does, is it helps them get to know their classmates. It gets them talking with other kids that they may not normally gravitate towards.
The Seven Habits
I teach at a Leader in Me school. But, even before we became a Leader in Me certified school, I taught the seven habits. I believe that they provide students with such valuable lessons and they help students practice skills to be successful.
Learning and practicing the habits together gives everyone a common language and allows your class to work together in practicing these skills. Talk about team building!
Goal Setting & Meetings
My students are actively working on a goal at all times. This can be an academic goal or a behaviour type goal.
On Monday mornings, students review their goals with their table groups. Their tables become their accountability partners and they ask for help from their group members to help support them in achieving their goals.
This is my first year rolling out a house system in my class and I’ll never go back. I love being able to award house points instead of individual points. It gets the students working together and they really bond with their housemates. They cheer each other on and are competitive with the other houses in a friendly way, of course! I use Haylee Harwick's house system.
Choices here, choices there, choices here, there, and everywhere!
I am a huge fan of giving students choices whenever I can. I feel that by providing choice, I am conveying to my students that I trust them and respect them. Trust and respect goes a long way in building classroom community!
Some ways that I provide choice to my students:
- Which tasks they want to complete first
- Where they want to sit
- What leadership role they want to do
- If they want to work with a partner
- Which class reward we should have
Spending time to build a strong classroom community makes for a happy, calm classroom. It also makes classroom management so much easier and who doesn’t want that!