Creating a learning community where students feel a sense of belonging and connection is so important in order to maximize the learning that takes place within your classroom. Your classroom becomes like a family for you and your students. The importance of establishing a community among learners is at the top of the list for teachers! Why is that? Because students will learn more in an environment where they feel loved and cared about.
When students feel that their ideas and opinions matter, they are going to be more likely to share them, which results in more learning happening! The big question is…HOW do teachers create this sense of community within their classrooms? We have some great ideas for creating a community in your classroom to get you started!
Creating Classroom Community Idea 1 – Weekly Class Meetings
Routine, routine, routine. Students thrive on having a routine and knowing what to expect. It builds a sense of security for them. Ensuring that your class meeting is every week at a scheduled time, and not random, begins to establish that routine. Class meetings are so important because they give students a chance to have their voices heard. Consider having a “Class Meeting Jar”, where students can drop ideas or thoughts throughout the week. If they have something they want to talk about at the next meeting, it can be put in the jar. Teachers can review the jar prior to the meeting. Use the class meeting time to share upcoming events, changes in routines, and so on with your students. This can also be a scheduled opportunity for students to share concerns, questions, or ideas for the classroom.
2 – Morning Meeting
This is a wonderful way to start the day. Having all students together and starting off with an upbeat song, poem, chant, or daily affirmation is a cheerful and uplifting way to start the day. One favorite morning meeting song is “I’m Going to Make This an Awesome Day” by Jack Hartmann. You might choose a different song for each day of the week. The Morning Meeting is a great time for talking about what the day will bring, giving students a heads up of any schedule changes, and so on. Having a quick share time during the morning meeting is a wonderful way for students to share anything that might be on their minds. Morning Meeting Slides are a great addition to this time of the day and include 225 slides to use throughout the year. There is a version for Kindergarten and 1st grade, as well as a version for 2nd and 3rd grade.
Creating Classroom Community Idea 3 – Student Shout Outs or Compliments
We all love good news, right? Students (and parents) do also. It makes students feel good to know they are doing a good job! Sometimes, it seems hard to find the time to give these shout-outs or compliments consistently. A helpful tip is to create a schedule. Based on your time available and how many students you have in your class, create a consistent routine for giving shout-outs. For example, if you want to make sure students get at least one handwritten compliment per month and you have 20 students, then break it down, and commit to giving at least one student per day a written compliment. Keep track of who has received them. If you want students to receive them more frequently, then do two per day. Be sure that you plan and create a routine that ensures all students have an opportunity to receive compliments and shout-outs. Looking for shout-out ideas? Here are a few to try:
- Award cards (the dollar store often has packs of these)
- Sticky note messages
- Emails to parents
- Messages written on desks with a dry erase marker
- Letters in the mail
- End of the Year Crowns and Awards are perfect for the last month of school. With over 70 to choose from, there is something just right for every student!
4 – Establish Classroom Expectations Together
Clear classroom expectations are a must! However, creating these together as a class will help students understand them better, and feel that their opinion and voice are important. This really builds a strong sense of community, and also is a great opportunity to discuss good choices and character. Consider a classroom expectation chart that you talk about and create with your students. It’s important to revisit the expectations throughout the year and discuss together if any changes need to be made.
Creating Classroom Community Idea 5 – Greet Students Every Day
Teachers never know how the day started at home for students, and that is out of our control. However, we can control and ensure that the minute students walk into our classroom, they know someone is happy and excited to see them. Be sure to greet every student, every day when they enter the classroom. It’s a great idea to stand at your classroom door, and offer students the option for a high five, a handshake, or a hug. However, you decide to greet your students, ensure that you are consistent. Students will look forward to your smile and your greeting each morning.
6 – Make Eye Contact
When talking to your students each day, be sure to make eye contact. It makes them feel that you are truly listening and that what they are saying is important. We know this can be hard when you have a classroom of many students and a lot could be going on. However, when students want to tell you a story about a trip they took, a favorite show they watched, or having dinner with their family, they are looking to connect with you! Be sure to show them you care, by taking a second to make eye contact and truly hear what they are saying.
7 – Gratitude Journal
Thinking of things to be grateful for and sharing these ideas with others can create a positive atmosphere and a community that students want to be a part of! Utilize the FREE Gratitude Journal to encourage students to write about and share things they are grateful for.
Creating Classroom Community Idea 8 – Make and Encourage Connections
When you tell the class that you love ocean animals, for example, and a student says, “Me too!”, take that information and go with it. Ask questions, look for a way to make a connection with the student. You could ask, “What animal is your favorite? Have you been to the ocean?” Share your own thoughts and ask questions. Encourage these same conversations among students. Continually look for opportunities where students can make connections with not only each other but with you too!
9 – Class Rewards
It’s great to have individual rewards, but having a class reward encourages students to cheer each other on and work together as a team. Your students could work towards filling a marble jar, a gumball machine, cookies in a cookie jar, a sticker chart, or so on. Perhaps you are working on getting compliments in the hallway or saying kind words to others. Select a specific goal that students can work together to achieve. Have a class talk and decide together what reward they would like to work towards. You could even give them a few choices for a reward and then have a class vote.
10 – Make a Kindness Board
Create a poster or bulletin board in the classroom and encourage students to write random compliments or words of kindness on the board. You can leave a stack of sticky notes near the board and students can write kind notes through the week. The kind notes can be shared and read aloud at the end of the week or read throughout the week. Having a central place that is full of happy and kind words can be uplifting and a great way to encourage each other every day!
Creating Classroom Community Idea 11 – Use Journaling to Share Ideas
Give students a voice! Using journal prompts gives students the opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas with others. The resource, 180 journal prompts, gives you more than enough for the entire year so you won’t get stuck trying to come up with ideas. Allow students time to reflect and share ideas with their peers. You will be amazed at how they love to say, “Me too!” or “That’s what I thought!” to each other and make connections.
Remember, these suggestions are just that – suggestions. They might not all work for you, or reading these ideas might spark a new idea for you. If so, go for it! Try new things and figure out what works for you and your students. Teaching is never “one size fits all”, and when it comes to creating community in your classroom, that is the case as well. You might have to try a few suggestions to see what your students respond to the best, and what works for you and your classroom to build a strong learning community.
Written By – Sarah Cason
At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.
If you enjoyed what we have to offer at ETTC, be sure to join our email list, so you won’t miss a beat.