Classroom Community Building

I found the simple life ain’t so simple

It is summer time or almost summer time for teachers in the United States, but no matter where you are or when you are reading this post, classroom community building is something you likely prioritize at the beginning of each school year. What you may not do consistently, however, is continue to do community building activities in January or periodically throughout the school year. If the thought of doing that sounds good, but you are concerned about where to find the time to fit it in, then I have a few ideas about that as well.

When I jumped out on that road

Relationships between students and their teachers are important, but so are the relationships built in class between classmates. While pacing guides and other curriculum demands can become overwhelming fast, there are some easy ways to work in relationship building too. New students popping in throughout the school should definitely be a reminder to add team building or relationship building into your plans, but the truth is that all students benefit with regular or periodic activities that help them get to know their classmates. One way to embed this into your classroom routine is through protocols.

I got no love, no love you’d call real

The first time I introduce any new strategy or tech tool, I’ve always had success when using fun content or content with a low cognitive load. My goal is to help them learn the tech or strategy in a low stress way before they use it with content. Enter a relationship building opportunity. The following are examples of how I might use the same relationship building content when introducing the tech tool and the learning strategy. To be clear, I would do one or the other with the ideas below, not both.

Buncee (1st time use)

  • Group students either within their tables or by grouping them in any way you prefer. There should be 3-4 students in the group.
  • Give students a set of questions to answer about each member of the group. Questions should be geared toward helping students get to know each other, such as “What is your favorite song?” “How many siblings do you have?” “When is your birthday?” “What is your favorite brand of shoe?”
  • Have students create one graphic or slide per group member that features a picture of the student, the answers to the questions, and tons of creativity.
  • Do a Gallery walk, print out, or digitally share their creations with the class.

Numbered Heads Together (1st time use)

After reading how the activity works, if it is new to you, apply the same questions to students grouped as suggested in the directions. Again, I would use 3-4 students. An easy way to facilitate the questions is by projecting them onto a Smartboard or whiteboard, or handwriting them onto a blackboard, or simply write them on one index card per group. Instead of having students focus on merely discussing their answers, have them dig a little deeper by sharing out one thing that they all have in common based on their answers to those questions. The commonality can be a negative, like nobody likes to wear Crocs.

Ain’t got nobody waitin’ at home

The great thing about using “get to know you” content with new tools and strategies is that it creates memorable and low stress fun while helping students get to know each other. The next time you want to use that tool or strategy, students will have a positive association with it, making their work with the actual content have a much better chance of being productive and successful too, as well as fun.

Headings are partial lyrics from Van Halen’s song, Runnin’ With The Devil.

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