Teachers have an important task at the beginning of each school year - to help the students in their classroom become a cohesive unit that can truly work together as the year progresses. It's important to me that my students feel like our classroom is a family, where they are loved and accepted, safe and respected. Developing a positive classroom community takes time, but it is time well-invested. Follow these tips to build a positive community in your own classroom this year!
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT RELATIONSHIP BUILDING.
FOCUS ON BECOMING A FAMILY.All students (and people in general) have a deep, psychological need to belong. They need to know they are accepted and valued by the teacher and other students in the class. One of my favorite ways to help my classroom feel more like a family is to have Family Meetings at the beginning and end of the day. I bring students together in a circle in the mornings and afternoons to have group discussions, solve problems we may be experiencing, and share positive affirmations. Some people have these meetings only once a week, but my students are most responsive when I host them every day. We begin and end the day together on the carpet. I lead the meetings at the beginning of the year, but then teach students how to take over ownership. In time, the students learn the protocol for how a family meeting is held and are leading them out. This time is really cherished by the students!
TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO INTERACT AND BUILD AFFILIATIONS WITHIN SMALL GROUPS.
In order for students to truly work together in cooperative learning groups, they need to have time to get to know their team members more closely. This is why teambuilding activities are so important! Teambuilding Activities encourage students get to know one another better and develop positive peer affiliations. Teambuilding is truly the foundation for cooperative learning tasks to be successful because it helps students learn how to interact within small groups. The first few weeks back in school are crucial for students to engage in teambuilding activities. Some ideas for teambuilding activities include:
- Team Motto/Mascot/Pennant/Shirt/Slogan, etc - Have students work as a team to design something and be prepared to explain the meaning behind what they designed. This is a great activity for table groups or teams that will be working together more often.
- 2 Facts and a Fib - This one is so much fun! Each person has to write down 2 facts and 1 fib about himself or herself. The team has to agree on what they think the fib is, then share out. I always model this one out at the teacher first, and I stump them every time! ("Yes, guys, I really was born during an earthquake, and no, that wasn't the fib!")
TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO INTERACT AND BUILD AFFILIATIONS AS A WHOLE CLASS.
Teambuilding is a great way to teach students how to interact with one another in small groups, but Classbuilding intentionally teaches them how to interact with one another as a whole group. It is important to help your students build a class identity while still valuing the differences that make each student a unique member of the class. So often, they will form strong group bonds, so we need to get them out of their seats and interacting with people they don't always talk to! These activities are a fun way to mix up the class and get students building connections with new people.
- Line ups - Line ups have students line up in order of shoe size, birthdays, number of siblings, from tallest to shortest, etc. Fold the Line Up for a fun discussion. Just have students at one end "fold the line" by walking back to the other end so each student is standing in front of another, then have them chat about a specific topic.
- Four Corners - Assign each corner a statement, such as Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Then read out statements and have students self-select which corner best describes their opinion on the topic. They can chat with members in the same corner about what they have in common or share out why they identify with that statement.
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