This post is an important one because it’s all about building a strong Classroom Community where everyone feels included, motivated and accepted.
Build Classroom Community With Messages
Before the students even arrive, consider the environment you’re creating for them. From the posters on your walls to the books in your library, it’s important to create a welcoming feeling for all of your students. Positive quotes, messages of inclusion and motivational phrases can be a silent gesture that promotes classroom community from the very first time they enter your room.
Build Classroom Community With Books
Having books in your classroom library that depict children from diverse cultures and backgrounds is another way to embrace classroom community. I also like reading books to students that make them think about their choices and actions. “What if Everybody Did That?” is one of my favorite books to use to introduce expectations and have a discussion about how our actions impact others. Reading books aloud to students and having whole group discussions is critical to fostering a sense of classroom community. Having open conversations and allowing students to lead the talk track can be exactly what a student needs to feel connected. And even if that one book reaches just one student and makes an impact on him/her, you’ve had a successful day!!
Build Classroom Community With Meetings
In our classroom each day is a new beginning. Anything that happened yesterday gets wiped clean when students enter that door the next day. Giving our kiddos the reassurance that they can make better choices and their actions from the day before will not be held against them helps build trust and foster a sense of community.
That’s where Behavior Focus Meetings come in. I meet with my students every Monday morning to discuss our focus for the week. I’ve created 8 pre-made Behavior Focus Meeting prompts that we cycle through for the first quarter of the school year. I tend to revisit them again and again throughout the year because we always need reminders and it doesn’t hurt to focus on the same positive idea more than once.
I introduce Behavior Focus Meetings to my students after our classroom rules, expectations and procedures are in place (click here to see what I use to introduce all of those important things to students AND parents, then read this blog post to learn how I manage behavior effectively!) Behavior Focus Meetings typically begin during the second month of school. It’s a great way to build classroom community and incorporate character development without taking up a ton of time.
Behavior Focus Meetings take about 10 minutes. I find they have the best impact on a Monday morning. I display the focus prompt, the students meet me at the carpet, and we brainstorm ways to show that skill/trait. For example, Week 1 is: “How will you show kindness this week?” This is a pretty general question, so we hone in on the 4 or 5 ways we can show kindness to our classmates, our classroom, and our school.
After we’ve agreed on the things we are going to try to do, students identify which ONE they want to focus on for the week (this is why it’s important to repeat these prompts so students can focus on different outcomes each time). They place a sticky note with their name on it onto the one thing they’re making a priority this week. Then, we go about our day, business as usual!
The poster with our focus and sticky notes remains on display throughout the week. You can download an exclusive Behavior Focus Meeting freebie here! I will give quick whole group reminders by saying something like “Check your focus! Are you reaching for your goal this week?” and I also use it as a tool to conference with students who need a little extra support. If I know a student struggles with a certain behavior or if I’m concerned he/she isn’t making the best choices in pursuit of our focus prompt, I will conference with him/her to check in and provide recommendations for how he/she can achieve his/her goal. Basically, the Behavior Focus Meeting on Monday sets the tone for the entire week. I hold students accountable to their selection and I aim to make sure they feel accomplished at the end of the week.
On Friday we will have a quick meeting to recap our week. This is another 10 minute meeting that provides time for students to reflect on how they worked toward achieving our behavior focus. I either have students write down their reflections using a reflection sheet provided in this resource or have them share their accomplishments out loud to the class… or both! What I want to hear from students is something like this: Our focus this week was to show kindness. I showed kindness by sitting next to a student at lunch who was sitting by herself. Some students won’t feel comfortable sharing out loud, some will have nothing to say, some will probably make something up! But, keeping it a positive and safe meeting to express reflection is the key to success.
The student who didn’t do anything and the student who made something up? Chat with them individually about it later and provide support with next week’s prompt so they can share in the excitement at the end of the week!
I hope you found some helpful ideas to help build classroom community!