We know the power of a strong classroom community, but do you know how to build a stronger community? Fostering a safe school environment is my number one priority, and it should be yours as well. I find it peculiar that credential programs don’t seem to hone in on classroom community more. Knowing how to write and plan a lesson plan are important and all, but according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety, belonging, and esteem needs all come before self fulfillment. Translation: students need a strong classroom community that feels safe, welcoming, and encouraging to learn efficiently.
So here are 3 steps towards making that happen:
1. Set aside time for community building activities.
I know you are thinking “Erin, where do I have the time to do this and teach every standard?” The answer is that you don’t. I wish I could provide us all with a remote control that could freeze time, but if you’ve seen the movie “Click” you know that doesn’t end well. So rather than freeze time let’s utilize time better!
- Pair Share: Let us “pair share” about more than the passage that we just read. Let’s challenge our students to get up out of their seats and share a random fact with someone they don’t speak to often! This can take less than a minute and I even have some question cards that can help get you started.
- Timed Talking Transitions: Do your students use transitions to catch up with friends or make plans for lunch? Put up a visual timer for transition, give the instructions, but add an addition instruction: quickly speed talk with a friend and follow the other instructions before time runs out! This also allows for a great discussion on time management. Talk to students about getting their necessary materials out first before chatting with their friends.
2. Affirmations, affirmations, affirmations
- Written affirmations: Written affirmations are special! Students can share them with their parents and keep them to reread over and over again. I have a collection of monthly affirmation activities that can displayed or made into a book that the students can take home at the end of the school year.
- Spoken affirmations: There are many ways to do spoken affirmations and I really think that I need to do a full blog post on these, but one way to do this would be to have students sit in a circle and randomly pick names from a hat and have them affirm those people by sharing something they admire about the person, something the person does well, or something they feel the person should be recognized for. This is not a story, but rather sharing a character trait that the person embodies.
3. Model what a strong community member looks like.
- Show them what you want a community member to look like.
- Affirm members of the classroom rather than using classic praise phrases.
- Use explicit teaching to give examples and non-examples of a strong community member.
Building a strong classroom community doesn’t take a ton of time, just remember to model it and to work on it a little bit each day!
I’d love to hear other ideas you have, or how these tips have helped your class!