Classroom Community is important! If you do not establish a safe community from day 1, your year will be headed for trouble. To ensure you have a fabulous year, I have composed five ways you can build the community in your classroom.
1. Instill trust.
This is my #1 technique to building community in the classroom. Here is the rhyme to my reason: Why keep checks on your students when they can just keep checks on themselves. Here are ways you can use this strategy.
Walking in line: Let your students know you trust them and that they can handle it without you having to say a word.
Lunchroom/Recess/Specials behavior: Remind the students of the lunchroom behavior, but let them own their own behavior. If you tell them you trust them, they are more than likely to deliver.
Classroom accountability: Let students know the importance of being good classroom citizens and learners and remind them how you feel about how smart and awesome they are. Let them know you trust them to make good choices and that you know they will not let you down.
2. Give each student a job
I learned this from a colleague, but she told me that if you give each student a job, they really will get good at it, and you can differentiate by ability levels. Each student has a job that has a different level of responsibility to fit their need. They also know that they will not get a job the first day. Some may and some may have to wait a week or two. I do this for two reasons: The first is so I can get a scope for what I need. The second is so I can train the kids on the jobs with a nice pace. A perk to this method is that you get things done for you in the classroom and you are not spending your prep doing it. When I give a student a job, they know the very specific expectations for that job and they own it. If they are not really cut out for that job, they are “laid off,” and I give them a job when I see an opening for a new one. Below are some examples of classroom jobs I have.
Line Leader, Door Holder, etc.
Prepper for Math: Math bin prep
Prepper for Science: Science bin prep
Prepper for Reading: Reading bin prep
3. Use self-monitoring techniques
Encourage each child to use self-regulation with their feelings. Think about it this way: Are they going to have someone telling them how to act in the real world? Probably not. Use strategies you think would be useful. I always think about what works for me, and then I cater it to their level. Below are some ideas for self-regulation.
Putting together a puzzle
Going for a walk
Going to the restroom to wash off face
Offer an alternative activity for 5 minutes
4. Classroom Meetings
I always facilitate classroom meetings, but the students are expected to run them. Each week, a different student runs the classroom meeting. I encourage them to use engagement strategies that I use. This gives them a sense of belonging, and they build self-confidence simultaneously. These meetings can be a great time to bring up many important issues. The issues can be as specific or as broad as you like. During the classroom meetings, we will start with two positive issues, and then two things we need to work on. Below are some issues to talk about during the classroom meetings.
Walking in line and not touching the wall
Using Reading/Math strategies
Using classroom signals
Holding each other accountable
Turning in homework in the morning
Using kind words and manners
Using materials properly
5. Do not allow tattling in the classroom
Students are always going to want to tell you about their issues if you allow it. I do not ignore the problem, however, I make it mandatory for them to address the people involved instead of me. That way, I can do my job: Teach! Remember to tell the students when it is an important time to tattle. Someone is bleeding, there is blood, puke or bones are broken. Another thing I stress is for the kids to let me know in private if they are getting bullied by someone.
Below are some phrases I use at the beginning of the year. I recommend coaching them through it at the beginning, because this is something that does not happen right away.
“Hmmm. That sounds really awful! I bet if you spoke with that person and told them how you feel about it, they would realize it really hurt you and they would not do that anymore.”
“When someone hurts me, I go straight to that person and tell them how I feel. I think you should do the same. I will watch and you let me know what they say.
“Why don’t you try the phrase ‘I feel _____________ when you ______________.’ Please stop _______________. I would like you to _______________.'” Encourage the other student to try the same phrase if there is a problem on both sides of the conflict.
Below are some phrases I use towards the middle/end of the year if you still need to from time to time. It is important to accept the fact that kids are going to tattle no matter what time of year it is, but these strategies will significantly reduce the occurrence.
“Hmmm. Was I the one that _______________?”
“What would you like me to do about it? Or is this something you can handle on your own?”
I would be happy to help you, but I think this is an issue you need to take up with _______”