Teaching is a hard, hard job. After a teacher has completed paperwork, planned lessons, taken attendance, greeted parents dropping off their children, made phone calls, sent book orders, put up bulletin boards, updated websites, organized manipulatives… she still has many other responsibilities not specifically cited in her contract. This is why spending the extra time to build community is so important.
Building classroom community is as important as passing out text books and assigning seats, maybe even more important than those processes. A strong classroom community allows a teacher to be able to try cooperative learning structures, creates an atmosphere of success, and often helps in lowering the instances of misbehavior. More can be accomplished when the students have a good relationship with their teachers and each other.
Community building can be accomplished in several ways. First, there needs to be a concerted effort for students and teachers to get to know each other. We tend to work better with those we know as compared to strangers. Ways in which this can be accomplished is through get-to-know-you games and displays that introduce students to their community.
Collaboratively creating classroom norms and procedures is a second way to build your classroom community. Not only will students have a clear understanding of classroom expectations, they will also feel ownership in how the class operates. This can be done at the beginning of the year with the understanding that revisions can be made to fit every situation.
Team building is a close cousin to community building. Whenever we place learners in small groups, it’s best to do something to help them build rapport and teamwork. There are hundreds of team building games all over the internet. Use one every time you divide into teams as an ice-breaker.
Whatever you do this school year, remember that building a strong community will make your job easier in the long-run. It’s never too late to build community, but it gets harder as the year goes by. So, do something today to build your classroom community!
What do you do to insure a strong classroom community? What have you done today to build classroom community?
Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.