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Building Classroom Community

By Kriscia Cabral on September 12, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Teachers have their preferences. There is always one classroom quality that we tend to favor more than others. For me, that quality is community building. I am a stickler for the "all or none." I believe every student is a part of our learning process and each one should be included in all aspects of our classroom day. I also believe that students should be models of good character and it is a teacher's job to reinforce that character when we can. Happily, I have found a number of activities that help do the job.

Reflect and Goal Set

At the beginning of the year, my students think about the goals they want to achieve and we create art pieces from those goals. I wanted to set this special artwork in a place where the kids could always see them and be reminded of their purpose for coming to school. It is a visual representation of what matters most to them. Here is the site where I found this wonderful art project.

Morning Meetings

Many of the morning meetings in my class start with a silly introduction or "share out" from students. If there is an opportunity for students to share with their peers and receive feedback, I take it. So I try to spark a conversation with a few and then the rest join in. They get especially excited when they share about something that catches everyone's attention. There are so many important elements of learning that take place in our discussions including the opportunity to reflect on what's been said.

The kids love to wrap up the meeting with a quick game such as BopIt or Zoom. Here is a list of new activities we will try through out the year. We also use many of the activities found in The Morning Meeting by Roxann Kriete. This year, I loaded the names of all our activities into my random pick app. Waiting to see which one would be chosen became as much fun as the activity itself! While the activity is quick, I still throw in a learning lesson, usually having something to do with sportsmanship, teamwork, being prepared, and always something about good character. Reminders are ever so helpful.

Compliment Like Crazy

I try to compliment each student every time I see them and they learn from my example. Compliments just make you feel all happy, inside and out and it's an amazing thing to have enough confidence in yourself to make others feel good. One way I achieve this goal for myself is by writing notes on post-its. I deliver them at random times throughout the day when the kids aren't looking. I keep an on-going check off sheet to track who got a "hug" note and when. I treasure the smile it puts on their face.

Fourth and fifth graders are quite shy when it comes to saying nice things about each other, which I find to be quite funny. When I taught second grade, giving each other compliments was a piece of cake. Now that the kids are older it's like pulling teeth. To put a spin on this concept, I use an activity I learned during my credential program from my instructor, Charlie Littrel. Called the Car Wash, kids write a compliment on a sticky note, fold it up, and load the bucket of their chosen "car." Students go around the tables and the buckets get filled with compliments. Each car (student) gets to pick five compliments to read and share with the class while demonstrating the appropriate response to the giver of the compliment. Please enjoy the Car Wash in action.

Another favorite activity in the compliment category is the Web of Kindness. It starts with one student holding a ball of yarn who pays a compliment to another student. At the same time he or she quickly wraps the loose end of the yarn around his or her finger and then tosses the ball to the one who was complimented. This goes on until a web is created. It's really neat and creates a great visual of teamwork. I end the activity with the notion of no matter what grade or age you are, kindness sees no boundaries. It is something we all want and something we should all share with others.

Community building for me is really just taking the time to connect with my students. I love to share stories with them about me as a person and not just a teacher. My students laugh because they can hardly imagine me as a mom. They relate to the stories and are thrilled to hear that they are not alone when it comes to life's ups and downs. Connecting with my students as individuals creates a positive learning environment. It creates a space they want to be in because they've built their confidence and gained my trust. I look at it in the same way I look at my job. If I wasn't enjoying it, I wouldn't be doing it. Shouldn't we do the same for our students?

I would love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on community building? Do you have any activities you'd like to share?

 

 

Comments (13)

Where or how did you come up with how to bring a classroom together as a community, and everything that goes along with this special classroom community? I really like that this is also helping the students build higher self esteem and good character as a person.

Kriscia,
Thank you so much for sharing such a heart warming post! Kids will remember how you make them feel more than any specific lesson. And without a doubt they will remember you!

My favorite Master Teacher Rick taught me to connect to the children and share personal stories. His students loved him. Since then I have kept that at the core of teaching.

During my morning meetings this year I have implemented "Tell me something Good". The class president leads this and we sing the little bit from the Happy Feet movie..."tell me something good". We also clap our legs, then hands, then snap. Kids share quick blurbs about all kinds of stuff: passing video game levels, dad's birthday, kicking a goal. Plus all the sharing is staying in the positive!

Just sharing another community builder.

Allison,

Thank you for sharing. I love this idea and I love the incorporation of singing in the mornings. I bet your students look forward to Morning Meetings with you! I can't wait to go back to my classroom and give it a try!

Thank you for reading!

I'm a Greek teacher I love my students and I try to find ways to be my teaching better and better!

Thank you so much for sharing your ideas with me. I can use all the ideas I can get as one day I hope to teach children and build community as well. Great ideas. I love the constant praise, at first I thought it would be overkill, but honestly most of the children only hear they are doing good in school.

Thank you Kriscia for sharing the wonderful things you do each and everyday in your class! When I read about the yarn activity, I had to smile. I have been using the same yarn activity to point out how plants and animals are connected in a habitat. I ask the students to take on the role of a certain species and then they toss the ball to a plant or animal they need for survival. They can actually see how important and connected each living thing is to one another. I think it is even more powerful to use with our students to point out this same idea. Wonderful!!!

Hi Linda,

I love how much one idea can connect in so many different ways. Thank you for sharing the Science concept with the yarn. I can't wait to try this approach with the Web with my kiddos. What a great way to connect our learning with ourselves and the world around us.

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for this post! It's easy to forget about our individual students when there is so much pressure with teaching everything we have to! I have heard of the Car Wash but didn't know how it was actually done. I love it and I will try it out this week.

Hi Ana,

I couldn't agree with you more. I do believe that stepping away from that and just spending time with your kiddos really alleviates that stress. You get the chance to see them just as kids. Often times the pressure we feel is exactly what they are feeling when they are at school. I can't wait to hear how the Car Wash goes!

Thank you for reading!

I love that you have a passion for what you do! It is very rare that you find teachers that still have the heart to teach. Many of them are doing it for the money or because they were undecided on their career and their degree allows them to teach (sigh). The fact that you take time out of a day which is usually monopolized by schedules, and syllabus', to speak personally to the students and be interested, to compliment them and build them up personally is almost unheard of in the public school system. These things will take them so much further in their education, personal life, and communities. You Kriscia Cabral are a breath of fresh air to the public school system!

Hi Shar,

Thank you so much for your kind words. I honestly come to school with this being my top priority. Students find the drive the learn when they find confidence within themselves. I want every child that enters and exits my room to have that confidence. Learning comes at different times for everyone. Self-confidence is something that needs nurturing and support. I believe this is an important quality to build within my students.
Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate your comment and support.

Smiles,

Kriscia

Thank you Brian! This is my favorite part of the day with my kids. I love listening and watch them grow as kids of character.

Thank you for reading!

Just like the kids need reminders about good manners, building a good character and things like that, it always helps teachers to get reminders about how important those things are! This was a great reminder and some great ideas on how to implement in the classroom! Thanks Kriscia

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