It is that time of year again! A fresh crop of kids to turn into a family! I do believe that your classroom of students become your “school family.” You are together as often as with your own family for many of the kids!
So how can you make sure to build a positive environment where everyone feels valued?
I am a HUGE fan of sitting students in groups.
It does cause the teacher to be more cognizant of classroom management, but it also gives students chances to develop rapport and make friends. It also makes partner and small group activities easy, because the teacher can choose to use the table groups.
One of our very first activities is to write a classroom promise. This is our promise to each other. We record how we will act and treat each other. Then, every student signs it. Over the years, I have also had students create a personal logo or a picture of themselves to personalize it.
Another way to build students up and together is a class compliment jar. This is kind of like the “fill your bucket,” but on a much simpler scale. I kept a jar or index card box (it varied from year to year) with a stack of post it notes next to it. Whenever another student did something kind, a student could write it down and slip it into the jar. At the end of the day, I randomly pulled out 3-4 slips of paper and read them aloud. Kids LOVED hearing their names and beamed with pride. It also made kids aware of acts of kindness.
So in #1, kids are sat in groups. I also liked to provide several areas in the room where students could partner up and work together. It gave students a special place.
Here are a few partner areas I have had over the years in my room.
I took out the table legs. The kids sat on the floor and worked at the table- and LOVED it!
So all this is great and warm and fuzzy and all, but you also have accept that you will need to explicitly teach kids how to treat each other. For many kids, communicating effectively, listening, and sharing is not intuitive. Every year I taught basic things, like how to share during share time (like in the poster above) or how to listen.
I even wrote a unit on how to communicate in class discussions and work with partners called Back to School Buddies.
In the unit are explicit lessons and activities to teach sharing, listening, and effectively communicating. I also tried to include lots of partner activities that are perfect for getting to know each other in the beginning of the year.
It is part of the A+ Images, Inc websites. This company is SO GENEROUS. Recently, they offered bloggers a free shirt
, just in return for a shout out (PS-The offer is still good until 9/30/15!). That is it! I ordered a free shirt before Vegas.
I look like a cheese ball in the picture, but this is me on my way to Vegas in my custom shirt! I was actually pretty surprised when I got the shirt. My expectations were none existent…I mean, it was free! I was pleasantly surprised when I got the shirt. The fabric is pretty thick and the screening looked great. I did order up a size, and I am glad I did. I am not sure if it shrank, or I am just not ready to face the music and accept my bust size. Either is likely! LOL!
When I went to Vegas, I attended a meet up and meet Doug, who works with the company. He was the nicest guy. And here is the best part, the company gave away a class set (up to 24 shirts) FREE of t-shirts to a teacher. I about fell out of my chair when my name was called! Since I am no longer in the classroom, they let me give it away! Yahoo!
This is just one sample of the possible designs. Wouldn’t that be the cutest thing ever to build your classroom community!?!?!? A group t-shirt! There are directions and everything on the website on how to create the t-shirts. Want to win?
Entering is simple!
Do you have any other tips to build classroom community?
Mandy Gregory is a 2007 and 2012 Teacher of the Year. She has taught 4th, 3rd, and 2nd grade in both the general education and inclusion setting. She is the owner and creator of the Teaching Tips website (www.mandygregory.com) and has over 10 years of experience. She is married with two beautiful children.