By this time of the year, children have gotten to know one another and have almost mastered the routine. Now is the time to work together to create a community of learners. Your group time is the perfect place to get started. The social dynamics of sharing, listening, taking turns, and respecting others are practiced every day in your meetings together. By helping children focus on cooperation and collaboration, you can create connections that will strengthen your group for the rest of the year. Read on for some fun ways to help children connect with one another.

Sing a Song of Cooperation

A song is a fun and easy way to remind children of the goals of cooperation and creating a classroom community. Start with a discussion about cooperation. Write the word on chart paper and add children's definitions of the word. You might ask: "What does it mean to cooperate?"; "What kinds of things do we need to do when we cooperate with one another at group time?" Then, use the following song to illustrate your conversation about cooperation at group time:

Cooperation Song (Tune: "Frère Jacques")

Coop-er-a-tion, coop-er-a-tion

Share! Care!

Play fair!

We are all connected,

We are all connected

In our room,

In our room.

You can invite children to add words from their brainstorming session to the words in the middle of the song (share, care, play fair). Then sing it again!

A Collective Masterpiece

With a line here and a line there, children can -work together to create a collaborative masterpiece. You might introduce the activity by asking: "Have you ever seen a drawing made by 18 [the number of children in your class] artists? How would that work? How can that many people work on the same thing, at the same time, without bumping into each other?" Encourage children to talk about the cooperation skills needed to do a collaborative drawing.

Now it's time to test out their ideas! Pass out crayons. You might start by saying: "OK, let's try it with these crayons. I will draw a line, and when you see a place to put another line or shape, raise your hand and I will call you to come up and add it." Encourage children to take a moment to look at the picture and consider where to put their lines before they draw. As each child adds to the illustration, invite the others to suggest what they see in the picture.

After the last child has added a shape, the children can work together to create a title for their masterpiece. Ask: "What shall we call our picture?" Write the title on a separate piece of paper. Leave enough space so that all the children can sign it. Enjoy this activity frequently, using different media.

Reflective Listening

An important part of feeling welcome in a group is the feeling of being listened to. You can use reflective listening regularly at group time. At this point in the year, it will take time and attention to learn the skill, but it will quickly become a natural part of your classroom community. Here are some simple and effective ways to teach children the skill of reflective listening:

  • Talk about the importance of listening and being listened to. You might ask, "How does it feel when someone doesn't listen to you?" "How does it feel to have someone listen to you?"
  • Teach children how to use reflective listening at group time by demonstrating it first. Invite a child to tell you about what he did last night or what he wants to do this weekend. As the child speaks, model good listening skills, such as making eye contact and clasping your hands in your lap. When he is finished, tell the group what you heard him say.
  • Encourage children to share what they remember from listening to that child. Now it is their turn. Invite another child to share, and say, "Let's see how well we listen. Listen carefully to Jane, and when she is finished, raise your hand if you can tell me something she said." Invite children to share what they recall. Remember to check back with the speaker to see if the children's recollections are correct. This validates both the speaker and the listeners.

Consider applying reflective-listening skills to show-and-tell activities. It will keep children more focused on the child than on the object! You might also use a song, like the one above, to help the activity along.

Are You Listening? (Tune: Again, try "Frère Jacques")

Are you listening, are you listening?

To what [child's name] says?

What did she share? What did she share?

Tell us please. Tell us please.

Creating Connections Throughout the Day

Creating Connections Throughout the Day

Create a transition-time "buddy system." Each day at group time, ask children to draw names or photos from a hat to choose a buddy for the day. Then, when a visual or auditory cue signals a transition, children will quickly find their buddies and listen for instructions! At the end of group time, suggest the buddies go off to play or work together on the next activity.