The best-organized classroom and the most well thought out plan for the year in literacy doesn’t make the best class ever. These two things are small but important in your unique classroom.
Every teacher wants their classroom to work like a well-oiled machine and the biggest key to that is building community in the classroom.
Building a community is an ongoing process throughout the school year.
However, it can take many forms at the beginning of the year.
This means getting to know each other and getting the classroom ready and personalized for the year.
While community building is an ongoing process, community building is not just about decorating and getting to know the classroom at the beginning of the school year. It’s about discovering the kinds of readers and writers that inhabit the classroom.
The following tips are just ideas to get the ball rolling
and the school year started.
GREET THE STUDENTS IN THE MORNING
I always start my day by greeting my students at the door. It started as a requirement of the school district I worked in during my early years as a teacher and it just stuck because I could see the value in standing at the door each day and watching my peeps entering their classroom.
Shaking hands and saying good morning each day can say a lot about the two people involved in that exchange and it sets the tone of your day. When every teacher in the building does the same thing, it sets the tone of the building each day!
My last year teaching in the classroom in another district, unfortunately, did not provide for the opportunity of meeting and greeting at the door and it had a negative effect! The school environment was toxic and it seeped into all the classrooms.
I always knew that a positive greeting everyday was important for the babies coming into a classroom. I know now after that negative experience that when you GENUINELY say “Good Morning”, shake a student's hand and smile…it WILL work wonders in your learning community!
GIVE STUDENTS A TOUR OF THE CLASSROOM
On the first day of school, after everyone has entered the room, they are just sitting there with their pile of school supplies (hopefully, if you are lucky) just looking around!
It’s time to give them a tour of the classroom!
If they are like me when I enter a new workspace, I want to know where everything is that I will need.
I know it sounds silly because it's right there for all to see. Let's face it classrooms are not wide open spaces.
Students want to know about the classroom library, where to put their books, where to find the math supplies and art supplies. They will want to know where they will turn their work in.
Give the students the GRAND TOUR of their new home away from home.
SHOW STUDENTS THEIR PERSONAL SPACE
Let students know where they have personal space. Again, classrooms are not wide open spaces with lots of real estate! Students need to know what they get to call their own.
If you are going to have tables with table buckets, then let students know they will be sharing the space in the middle of the table.
Then let them know where their locker or cubbie is, so they can visualize that they have some personal space of their own.
Everyone likes personal space, right?!
Now about that... Have students label all of their spaces.
If you have book baskets or book bags or book boxes for notebooks, folders or books, then have students create name labels for it.
It's fun to teach different lettering techniques during this time and the end product is functional!
PERSONALIZE THE SHARED SPACE
This is the students' new home away from home. So, it’s time to decorate and make the classroom a unique place for ALL of you.
A learning community belongs to every person in that classroom. It’s a shared space, students must take ownership and share the personalization.
One way to create a space for ALL of you is to create banners for each student. Have students make a nameplate and then create a self-portrait of themselves. If you would like, take a picture of each student on the first day for their banner. Banners can also be created from All About Me activities and about Reading and Writing Lives. (check out the products below)
When the banners are created, hang them in a prominent place in the classroom for the entire school year or until you create new ones to show growth. It's great to she how students change throughout the school year. AND BONUS, so do their families at conference nights, parent nights, open house, etc.
CREATE A TEAM MOTTO OR MANTRA
Work together to create, organize and design a way in which to display a team motto or class mantra.
Just to get your mind going, think...
Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the places you’ll go…”
Debbie Miller’s “Reading is thinking!”
Vince Lombardi’s “Leaders aren’t born they are made and they are made just like anything else through hard work.”
Just creating a mantra and being that locker room coach to inspire the team will get those little people pumped up for the school year when they are still sleepy from their summertime routine (or no routine in my case)!
BUILD CLASSROOM EXPECTATIONS TOGETHER
At some point within the first day and throughout the week, you should work together to create classroom expectations.
When you build your expectations together with the students, they are more likely to “buy in” and follow them. It has been my experience that I can’t just display rules because students aren’t likely to follow them.
However, when students take a part in developing them, they are more likely to comply. Students know what they need in order to learn. They need their voice heard when giving their expectations of a learning environment.
Teachers know what the rules and expectations are, so why not give students a voice in creating those expectations. You and your students really do want the same thing for the learning community. It’s a win-win situation, right?!
When you have them all charted, let the students sign their name to the classroom learning community contract! When you sign a contract, you must adhere to it, right?!
Community building is an ongoing process. Community building is not just about decorating and getting to know the classroom at the beginning of the school year, it’s also about discovering the kinds of readers and writers that inhabit your new classroom.
The previous tips are just ideas to get the
ball rolling and the school year started.
To continue the classroom community building effort, launching Reader's and Writer's Workshop will help to foster and develop the community building you have already started in the classroom.
When children feel like they are valued and
they have a voice in their learning,
they will be empowered to do their best work!
Until next time...
You might be interested in this resource to start growing your learning community while building readers and writers