Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Build Classroom Community

Building a classroom community is so important as you start out your school year.  Students need to know that your classroom is a safe space where they come to learn and make friends.  Here are four tips to help you establish a positive environment in your room.

#1 Get To Know Each Other

Start off your year with some getting to know you activities that encourage teamwork and friendship.  Something as simple as building a puzzle together or playing a game of memory can help kids get to know one another and begin to establish friendships.

One of our favorite activities of the year is when we "adopt a friend" for the day.  The students are randomly paired up with another child to visit friendship stations.  They play some partner games, paint friendships rocks, and make friendship bracelets.  We even make friendship soup! The kids leave for the day with new friends and a sense of classroom community. Hop over here to see all of the activities in action.

#2 Talk About Your Gifts

I'm not talking about presents, but more about the gifts we each bring to the classroom.  Everyone knows there's always that one student that stands out in the crowd.  The one who looks great, can read way above grade level and just seems to have their act together.  He's the one that all the other kids look up to.

But what about everyone else? Aren't they special too? What do they bring to your classroom?  I like to talk about our gifts and point out all the special things about each one of us.  Maybe you have a student that is a fantastic artist.  They can draw anything. That's their gift! Maybe that's the child you call on to help make a special poster for the room.  Or maybe your gifted reader needs help drawing a they can ask your budding artist for help!

Do you have a student that is really shy, but also very loving?  Maybe they are the one who always notices someone when they are crying or feeling sad.  Do they step in and give a hug when needed? That's their gift! They bring the gift of empathy and love to your classroom.

Is there one student who loves to help out? They notice when something is out of place and put it back? Maybe they are quick to clean up a mess on their table.  That's their gift! When another child spills or needs some help cleaning, call on this student to help them out.

I love to point out these gifts to my students and pretty soon the other children are noticing too.  They will start to tell ME when they notice someone's gift. .  They will say things like "Billy is really good at math....that's his gift to us.  He can help us if we are struggling".  Or "Jill will always play with me on the playground.  That's her gift.  She is a good friend".

#3 Change Tattles Into Toodles's like a dirty word to an elementary teacher.  Nobody likes it, but we all deal with it every day.  So how do we put a stop to tattling? Change your tattles to toodles!

Tell your students that a tattle is when you are telling the teacher about something that will hurt the other child.  But a toodle is when you tell the teacher something that will help the other child!  Tattles hurt....toodles help! Teach your students to tell nice things about the other children...things that will make them feel good!

We have lessons about good and poor choices at the beginning of the year. We talk about the kind of behavior that we expect in school.

Then I encourage my students to tell nice things about their friends.  They can tell about something nice that a friend did for them or why they like them so much. We have special notes called "Nice Notes" that the students can use to write a nice message about their friend. These notes are specifically designed for young students that are just learning how to write.

We keep the Nice Notes at our writing center with some sentence starters and pictures of good choices.  Students can write a note to a friend and put it in the nice note basket.

Every couple of days, I will read the notes out loud to the class and then we hang them on our Nice Note bulletin board for all to see.  Imagine how special a child feels when they see a nice note written about them!

#4 Write Encouraging Words To Your Students

As teachers, we are all busy every minute of the day.  Sometimes it's easy to forget to tell kids what they did right that day.  But praising children is so important.  They will forget the times you yelled at them.....but they will always remember when you made them feel special and loved.  

Find a few minutes every day to tell a kid something good.  Keep a checklist on your desk of student names and make it a point to pick out 2-3 kids each day that you are going to praise.  It can be something as simple as walking by as they are doing their work and pointing out something you really like about their paper. Maybe you want to tell them you noticed how quiet they were during your lesson.  Or maybe you want to mention you were watching them on the playground and saw them being nice to another child.  Put a check mark next to their name so you know who you have praised.....and who you still need to show some love. 

Find something good about every child and let them know what it is.  Give them little notes to say "hey I noticed you today and I think you're great!".  This will do so much to boost their self esteem and create a positive classroom community.

I keep these notes in my desk, ready to go and at my fingertips.  They are quick and easy....but really make my kids feel great.  

Want to get started building a positive classroom community? You can grab everything you need,  here.