by Rachel Wells
As educators, we know that building a classroom community is one of the most effective ways to help students feel a sense of ownership of their learning environment while boosting their confidence. Unfortunately, teachers are busy. And on top of all of the requirements being asked of them, taking time to build a classroom community can end up taking a back seat.
Classrooms with a solid sense of community are filled with students who feel safe enough to take risks, who know they belong, and have less discipline problems. It’s so important to find time to build a sense of community within the walls of your classroom.
Here are 6 strategies educators can use that can be applied to almost any grade level from elementary through high school.
Hold Class Meetings
How often you hold meetings depends on your individual grade level and schedule, but whether they happen daily or weekly doesn’t really matter as long as they happen regularly. A dedicated meeting time gives students a chance to share about their lives, and talk about both school and non-school related things. They provide a perfect opportunity for students to learn about each other on a deeper level, develop inside jokes, and treat their classroom like their safe place.
When you first start holding class meetings it may be good to prepare and have conversation ideas in mind, but remember this isn’t a directed meeting, so let your students for the most part run the meetings themselves.
Give Daily Shout Outs
Regularly complement your students on the good things they do. Let them know when you see them trying hard, or when they were caught being a good friend. It’s also important to give your students opportunities to complement each other too.
One easy way to accomplish this is to set out a compliment station with notecards and pens in a corner of your room. You and your students can write complements on the cards and give them to each other either directly or anonymously.
Challenge yourself and your students to give out at least one complement/shout out each day.
Give Students a Voice
Get your students involved as much as you can in decision making. Whenever possible, identify problems, brainstorm ideas, think about any possible consequences, and make decisions TOGETHER. This helps students practice decision making skills while really taking ownership of their classroom environment.
You can also give students a voice in your classroom by having different classroom committees, hosting an election for a classroom government, and assigning job roles to students. Meaningful student involvement is key to making a positive classroom community.
Make it Personal
Have a dedicated space to hang up student’s work in your classroom, and rotate the work regularly. Dedicate wall space to displaying photo memories from the year, and set up a reminder to print classroom photos each month so the wall continues to grow.
Homemade posters and projects make the best art for a classroom space. Get creative with it. Imagine you’re walking into a kindergarten classroom, and you look at a wall and see store bought posters showing the colors of the rainbow. You would probably just glance and move along. But imagine walking into a kindergarten classroom, and seeing posters for each color of the rainbow, only instead of store bought, students have made the posters by cutting out images from old magazines and using the cut outs to collage a poster for each color. Which one seems more personal/full of student ownership?
Create Rules Together
There’s no better way to assure your classroom rules/expectations are followed then to make them together WITH your students! Brainstorm a list of rules together as a class and then vote to narrow it down to four that you want to use and become your official classroom rules. Be sure to display them on a paper hanging in your classroom space, and have each student sign their name to show that they have read and agreed to follow them.
Have a Classroom Song
You can either choose a song/chant that is already written, or make it a team building activity by working together to make one. Play this song at the start or end of each day and whenever else the time seems right. You want to be sure the song/chant is unique to each group of students, so this one will need to be made for each class you have.
We would love to know – what are some ways you like to encourage a feeling a community in your classroom?