Building A Classroom Community

by Cindy Elkins – OK Math and Reading Lady

From Day 1, you have most likely started working on creating a classroom community. The time spent on this will pay off in the long run because there will be a huge emphasis on establishing a climate of mutual respect, collaboration, kindness, a positive atmosphere, and a feeling that each one is a valued member of the class. This is also critical to help you prepare for future partner work and small group collaborative practices for your reading and math instructional program. See the freebie of activities in the last paragraph!

There are many ways to accomplish this, of course. But I will share my favorites. Before Great Expectations came to SW Oklahoma, I became familiar with an organization called Responsive Classroom (click to link to their website). They are similar to GE, but primarily train teachers in the NE part of the U.S.  Like GE, they also focus on a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning. You can subscribe to their newsletter and order wonderful books via their website. I started with one of their books called “The Morning Meeting Book” (click on title). It promotes ways to create a classroom community by having a daily “Morning Meeting.” We formed a circle every morning and greeted each other by name in fun ways. See some ideas below in the bulleted section.  (You would be surprised to know that often students don’t know their classmates names, even after several weeks of school.) Through this circle, we shared successes and concerns for one another, began discussion topics about how we should behave and respect one another, welcomed new students, made group decisions, and set the tone for the day. Every student was acknowledged and felt valued every day. Students don’t want to disappoint a teacher or classmate they respect, and it almost eliminated the need for time consuming behavior charts.

Name Greetings:

  • One student starts. Student #1 offers a type of handshake to the person to their right -Student #2 (handshake, pinky shake, salute, wave, high five, fist bump), and says, “Good Morning, ________ (name).” Student #2 returns the greeting, “Good morning, ________.” Then Student #2 greets Student #3, and it goes all the way around the circle.  I usually only introduce one type of hand gesture at a time. After we learn all of them, then I often give them a choice. I have to teach eye contact, sincerity, how to give a proper handshake, and what to do if you don’t know/remember their name.
  • After we have mastered the above, I introduce some other way to greet. One is to write each student’s name on an index card and place the stack face down in the middle of the circle. Turn over the top 2 names and they greet each other. Keep turning over 2 names at a time until the whole stack is completed.
  • Learn a greeting in another language (such as Hola or Buenos Dias, Guten Morgen, Bonjour, etc.).
  • Using a ball, student #1 rolls it to a student across the circle to greet them (student #2). Then student #2 rolls the ball across the circle to greet #3, and so on.
  • If we are crunched for time, we shake to the left and shake to the right and are all done!!

Through my years of GE training, I added teamwork activities to our classroom routines – especially at the beginning of the year. And then we continued them once a week because caring has to be practiced. We loved “People to People” and “Black Socks” and the “Woo Game.” I am attaching a pdf of  22 Movement, teamwork, energizer activities – I hope you will try some. I feel taking the time to create a caring atmosphere is worth every minute. Then we were able to focus our time on learning.

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