Community Building in the Classroom
Having a strong classroom community is arguably the most important aspect of teaching. Our classroom community is what makes students feel welcome and comfortable when they’re at school. Community building in the classroom is something I am super passionate about, so today I’m sharing with you my favorite activities to build a strong classroom community!
Classroom Community Building
Why build a strong classroom community? Our students spend approximately 40 hours a week in our classroom – equivalent to the amount of time adults spend at their full time job. Think about it. Would you like to work in an environment where your coworkers don’t really know you? Where you exist only to do your job and nothing else? To feel as though you are the only person who has your back?
Or, would you rather walk into work and be greeted by people who care? To spend your lunch break laughing and catching up with friends? To know that everyone around you supports you and is looking out for your best interests?
These two scenarios are the difference between a poor work environment and a strong one, and it can be applied to the classroom, too! If we as adults would rather spend 40 hours a week in scenario 2, then you can bet that our students absolutely would, too.
Community Building in the Classroom Activities
1. Morning Meeting
One community building activity I enjoyed doing was morning meeting. There are so many variations of this, and many teachers implement this every single day! Personally, I couldn’t fit that into my schedule, so instead I did Monday meeting with my class every Monday morning. I took pieces of the Responsive Classroom morning meeting model and adapted them to fit the needs of my class. My Monday meetings typically consisted of 4 parts (detailed below).
- Teacher Share. I always kicked off Monday meeting by sharing about my favorite part of the week! My students loved getting to hear about what I did and it helped me connect with them on a more personal level. This was an important way that I built relationships with my students.
- Question of the Day/Quote of the Month. Next, I went into a question of the day. It could be something thought provoking (“How can you show kindness today?”) or just for fun (“What is your favorite ice cream flavor?”). I allowed all students who wanted to answer. On the first Monday of each month, instead of asking a question, I introduced a new quote of the month. I read the quote, let the students share what they think it means, and then share what it means to me. Usually the quote had to do with having a growth mindset or some quality I wanted the class to focus on.
- Student Share. Students were on a rotating schedule and 4-5 students were allowed to share each week. This was their time to talk about anything their heart desired. They could tell a story, do a show-and-tell, talk about their weekend – anything! I gave them a time limit of 2 minutes each but rarely did a student ever talk that long. This was absolutely their favorite part of the meeting.
- Announcements. To wrap up, I would share any important announcements and remind students whose turn it was to share next week.
Our Monday meeting typically took about 10-15 minutes total and was always a great way to kick off our week. It really created an environment where students were able to get to know each other better, and also fostered positive thinking.
2. Closing Circle
Another one of my favorite activities for community building in the classroom is closing circle. Closing circle ends the day on a positive note before students are sent home. After cleaning up, we would gather in a circle in our carpet area. I would ask a question, and then go around the circle for students to answer. The questions would always focus on something positive, such as “Share about your favorite part of the day,” or “What made you laugh today?” If you ever get stuck thinking of a question, grab these Closing Circle Question Cards, which are a freebie in my TpT store.
Occasionally we’d switch it up and instead do an activity, such as saying something kind about the person next to you. You can have fun with it – just remember to always keep it positive! Closing circle should only take about 10 minutes at the end of the day.
3. Student Shout Outs
This is one I haven’t done in a few years, but my students loved it! Throughout the week, students would write “shout outs” for other students in the class when they saw them doing something awesome. They would write the shout out on an index card and then stick it in a box. I only had one rule – students were not to write who the shout out was FROM, only who it was TO. The shout outs are about recognizing outstanding actions from students – NOT about recognizing the students who wrote them. We can applaud others for their actions without expecting to be applauded in return.
Each Friday, I would pull out the shout outs from the week and read them aloud. We’d clap for the recipients, and I let them keep the cards. I never had a week where the box wasn’t full of shout outs. They truly loved recognizing each other.
4. Opportunities for Team Work
Another big part of community building in the classroom is providing LOTS of opportunities for students to work together. You can do this using various classroom management strategies or team building activities. Setting up your tables or desks in a way that allows for cooperative learning can help with this. It allows for open conversation and easily forms small groups when needed.
One way to do this is with STEM challenges. I group students and present a challenge to the class. Students then work together to use the materials provided to solve the problem. You can add a competition aspect to it if you want, or do it just for fun!