One thing that I never did much of until this year was focus on building a strong classroom community. I felt like I had good relationships with my students, but I realized I wasn’t very good at fostering my students’ relationships with their peers. How important that is! If students aren’t valuing and respecting each other, then it can be really hard to get much accomplished during the day.
So this year, after learning more about Responsive Classroom and building classroom community, I decided to put that at the center of my planning. Allowing time for my students to interact with each other and encourage each other during class was a priority for me. I took some aspects of the Responsive Classroom approach and adapted them for my classroom. I also took some things I’ve seen or heard about from other teachers whom I admire and adapted those ideas for my classroom as well.
NONE of the following ideas are my own brain child; I am pretty much the queen of taking others’ ideas and changing them to fit my needs. That being said, I wanted to share the different ways that I help build a strong classroom community in hopes that it will inspire you to do the same. I also HIGHLY recommend researching Responsive Classroom and their approach to building classroom community. It was super eye-opening for me! The only reason I am not 100% implementing Responsive Classroom is because it was just too much for me to possibly take on in one year. However, I think adding a few aspects at a time is enough to make a difference and still be manageable.
Building Classroom Community
This is adapted from the Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting. Having a meeting EVERY morning was overwhelming to me and something I’m not sure I have the time for at this point; but I did feel a regular class meeting would be instrumental in building that strong classroom community. The Responsive Classroom approach has 4 different components to the meeting: greeting, sharing, group activity, and morning message and is a daily 15-20 minute meeting to start the day.
In my class, I do my meeting on Monday mornings. I create a short PowerPoint to go with it. First, I share a quick summary of my week and my favorite part, because I feel it is important for students to be included in our life outside of school. Second, I do a question of the week. This is sometimes an easy, get-to-know-you question that most students will answer. Other times it focuses on a trait or character quality I want to talk about – questions like “How can you persevere today?” or “Tell about a time when someone helped you.” I let as many students as want to answer. Third, I do a student share time. I have a schedule set and 5 students share each Monday. I have 20 students so each student gets to go about once per month. Lastly, I use this time for any important announcements for the week.
It was important to me that students get the opportunity to stand up in front of their classmates, full attention on them, and talk about literally whatever they want. I have kids talk about something fun they did, or they bring in items for show and tell, or they tell about something they’re looking forward to. I don’t provide any guidelines for this time (other than keeping it under 2 minutes and 2nd grade appropriate). Students who are not speaking are to listen attentively, and we clap when the sharer is done. This is my students’ favorite part of the week!
Quote of the Month
On the first Monday of each month, I skip my question of the week and we talk about our Quote of the Month instead. I like to choose quotes that encourage a growth mindset or focus on another quality that I think is important. I choose the quote each month and display it on my letter board. Then, on the first Monday of the month, we talk about it during Monday Meeting.
We read the quote together, I explain any words they may not know, and then I ask them what they think it means. I love hearing their ideas! Seriously, 2nd graders can be pretty insightful.
After hearing their thoughts on the quote, I proceed to tell them what it means to me and what that means for our classroom. I refer to the quote often throughout the month but otherwise don’t do anything with it. I think it would be fun to once a month reward students who really showcased the qualities talked about in the quote, but I have not done that.
This idea is adapted from the Keep the Quote trend. I only do once a month because it’s hard for me to keep up with it weekly, but Keep the Quote is another great alternative to this community building strategy.
I love doing group work in my class, but unfortunately with the way our curriculum is set up, it doesn’t lend itself very well to doing group work often. So, I provide students opportunities to work together in a different way – table points.
This is super casual. Each table has a number (1-5) and I keep a tally on a chart I made on my board. Anytime I think an entire table has done a great job working quietly, cleaning up, keeping their desk neat, working together well, etc. I give them a table point. Tables accumulate points throughout the week, and the table that has the most points at the end of the day Friday wins!
The winning table gets to keep the VIP Caddy at their table the following week in place of their regular caddy. In the VIP Caddy I keep fun pencils, markers, pens, and pretty-colored dry erase markers. They LOVE it!
I switch up their seating once per quarter so they have opportunities to work with different students. I love watching them help each other and encourage each other so they can earn table points.
This is also taken from the Responsive Classroom. I try to end each day with a closing circle. My students absolutely love this time of day and are sad when we don’t get to do it (because of time). It takes only about 10 minutes!
After cleaning up and getting ready to go, I have all students come to my gathering area and we sit in a circle. Then we go around the circle and answer a quick question (similar to our question of the day, but everyone gets to answer). This could be a simple “What was your favorite thing that happened today?” or a more thought-provoking “What challenged you today and what did you learn from it?” The point is, whatever the question, you are ending the day on a POSITIVE note. So, stay away from questions like, “What did you NOT like about today?”
It can be hard to come up with questions to ask, so I created this FREE resource to help you out! Simply print, cut, and keep on a binder ring near your gathering area. Then, if you’re stuck, you can just grab these cards and find a question! These cards are available in my TpT store, or you can click the link below to download now.