As the new school year is about to start and we are getting our class rosters, we are inevitably going to begin thinking about the first day of school. How do we start our year off right? What are we going to do differently this year? What do we like about our first day routines? How am I going to take teach this lovely bunch of students each day? How are we going to coexist peacefully and actually learn from each other in this tiny classroom?
So honestly the real question becomes “How do I build a classroom community so that authentic learning can happen?”
And in case you are asking this question too, I have a book recommendation that may easily guide you in creating a community where authentic learning can happen. The book, The Classroom of Choice by Jonathan C. Erwin, is not new or even truly revolutionary but it is chock full of activities that are sure to help build relationships from the first day of school until the last . It was published first in 2004, so for any of you teachers who were in the classroom then, revisit your book shelves and if it’s there, dust off a copy in case there are some gems that you may want to revisit!
The entire book is about establishing a learning environment where the students and teachers thrive because all people in the community are getting their needs met. Although the book has lots of information that will help throughout the school year, community building begin to happen in the first few weeks. So here’s a list of some of fun activities to get started creating a learning environment where you don’t just survive, you thrive!
- Toilet paper introductions
- Students are given the instructions to “take as much as they need.” Once everyone has taken their sheets, the teacher instructs students to “tell us one bit of information for each piece of toilet paper taken.” This is a fun little getting to know you activity for the students.
- Human Scavenger Hunt or People Bingo
- Create a list of possible commonalities students could share (or put each of these characteristics on a bingo card) and have students find people who match these descriptions. For bingo, they would get others to sign their cards and the winner is the person who gets bingo.
- Students stand in a circle and the teacher asks students to share something like a strength they bring to the classroom. Once the first student answers, they throw the skein of yarn to the student standing across from them. That student answers and throws it to a new student. Once everyone has spoken, the yarn will look like a giant web. From here, the class can have conversations about the connections the class has, what would happen if someone dropped their piece of yarn, etc. This is a great visual depiction of how the class is interdependent.
- Get a basket of random objects (the more diverse the better) and put them on a table, students are to pick one of the objects and describe how they are similar and/or not similar to the chosen object. This is a great way for students to be creative with introductions and talking about themselves.
- Give students two pieces of different colored construction paper and have them draw a person important to them (or a pet) and them doing an activity they love to do. You can really have them put anything on these two sheets depending on their age, your goals and time restrictions.
- Students share their two drawings with another student. After sharing, the students tape their four pieces together (2×2) with tape on the back.
- Then this pair, shares with another pair and they tape their quilts together.
- Continue to group students and connect drawings until you have a whole class quilt.
This is just a brief look at the many different ways to build community in a classroom at the beginning of the year. Of course this community needs to be nourished and cared for as the year moves forward, but starting strong is extremely important. Feel free to comment below and add all the interesting and creative ways that you build community in your classroom! We’d love to hear from you!