Group time is one of the best places to support the building of a classroom community. Here you can build the vital people skills necessary for helping children develop a sense of identity within the group. The following activities invite children to listen, follow directions, share, and care.

A Place for Everyone!

When children know their place in the group, they feel as though they are part of a family! You can sing the song below to introduce the concept of a group-time family. Ask children, "How do we know where to find our place in the circle? Would you like to make special seat markers? We can make them here and use them whenever we have group time."

Now turn your circle into a collective art area! Pass out plastic placemats (or cardboard paper) and markers for children to create their own seat marker to use at group time. Ask children to use the markers to draw a picture of themselves and add their name. This way their "face" is always in the circle. Set the mats out before group time to give children practice in finding their names and their friends' names. Eventually, setting out the mats can become a job for children to do before group time, providing great practice in reading each other's names. Children will quickly learn how to read a friend's name if they want to sit near them!

Our Place in the Circle (Tune: "Sing a Song of Sixpence")

There's a place for each one

In our family

We are all together

Sharing happily

Look around the circle

And find a smiling face

These are all your special friends

Who'll meet you in this place

After children make their seat markers they can sing this second verse to the song.

There's a place for everyone

In our family

We are all together

Sharing happily

Look around the circle

And see a place to sit

find your name and sit right down

We make a perfect fit!

Meet My Family!

Now that we are getting to know each other, it's time to meet our families. In this activity, children will use family photos to introduce them to their classmates. You can send a letter home ahead of time, giving families a date for their child to bring photos to share at group time. Plan for only two or three children to share a day over the course of several weeks.

It's best to start by introducing your own family photos. Children are very curious to know more about your life outside of school. They can be surprised to find that you have children, a dog, or a husband/wife! Take time to show your photos one at a time and discuss the names of the people and pets. Invite children to ask questions.

Let the children who brought photos sit near you so you can assist them as they share their pictures. Invite one child to show his photos and talk about his family. Ask questions such as: "Who is in the picture with you? What are you doing? Where are you?" Encourage other children to ask questions, too: "What would you like to'know about George's family? What do you notice in the photos you want to ask about?" Use chart paper to write any thoughts children share about their family and post them with the photos for the day. During the day, children can talk with others about their photos and families in more informal ways.

Make a Family Song Book

November and December is the perfect time to work together to make a class gift for the children's families. No matter what holiday you celebrate - or even if you don't celebrate any at all - the adults in your children's lives will appreciate receiving this gift.

Begin by gathering children at group time to discuss their favorite songs so far this year. You can suggest that they choose several of their favorites to make a songbook as a gift for their families. Sing all the songs to be sure everyone agrees on the best ones to include. Then, set up your group-time area as a "recording studio." Tell children they will be recording artists for the day. Suggest that they create some fun costumes to wear to the recording session. Record the children singing the songs on tape. Keep playing the cuts back for children to listen to and approve. Take photos of the recording session to include on the tape. Print the words to the songs on paper, leaving room for children to illustrate them. Children can make covers and put these together into a family songbook. Parents will be thrilled to hear all the children's voices!

Click here for another activity to help build community.