My Back-to-School To-Do List, Part Two: Creating a Classroom Community
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Getting to know my students is the prelude to the larger goal of getting the students to know each other and building our classroom community. In my last post, I talked about one of the ways I get to know my students through personalized letters from their parents. Now, I want to share with you how I use that information by displaying it on student banners that will be used throughout the year in community-building ways.
Creating the Banners
To make the banners, you will need a few materials:
- Large pieces of fadeless art paper: Construction paper will work too, but I keep them hanging all year long, and the fadeless art paper stays true to its name, while construction paper tends to lose color over time.
- Individual picture of each student: I take these by the door on the first day of school.
- Adhesive to attach the picture to the banner: I prefer colored masking tape.
- At least two words or phrases to describe each student: This is where the information from the letters comes in!
I start by letting the students choose their favorite color and then I cut the paper into a banner shape. Then the students write their names across the bottom of the banner and add some simple decorations. While they are working on this, I move around the room and attach their pictures. I use colored masking tape because it’s quick, easy, and makes a nice border around the picture.
After I have attached the pictures, I ask the students to think of one word that describes them. They write that word at the top of their banner. The student part is done, so at this point, I collect the banners. On my own, I add two words to each student’s banner – these are words I have pulled from the letters I previously requested from their parents. When I’m finished, I hang the banners as a border around my classroom. The colors are beautiful, and the looks on my students’ faces are priceless! They love seeing the “extra” words on their banners, and they especially love seeing their faces adorning the walls!
Getting to Know You Activity
After everyone has found their own banner on the wall, I assign partners and ask each student to choose one word on their banner to discuss with their partner. The discussions they have really help them learn about each other, and by listening in, I get a better understanding of my students as well. I definitely add to my student notes information that I learn during these conversations!
There are many ways to create a vibrant classroom community. Student banners are one of my favorite techniques because they can be used in so many ways throughout the year to build on the cooperative learning principles we establish during those first days of creating the banners. A few of my favorites are:
- Reminding quarrelling students of each other's best qualities
- Introducing new students to the class
- Helping substitute teachers learn about the class at a glance
Additionally, the banners can come in handy for other areas of learning such as brainstorming writing ideas with students who are stuck for story topics.
I would love to hear how you build a strong classroom community. Feel free to leave a comment below!