How to Promote Classroom Community for Teachers: 7 Strategies for SuccessAll Posts
Reviewed by Joshua Prieur, Ed.D.,
Written by Ashley Crowe
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As humans, we crave relationships. We build our lives around our family and friends. The connection and purpose we find in those relationships shape many of our decisions. We need one another.
Children especially crave these connections. And since a large portion of their early life is spent at school, educators need to focus on meeting their social and emotional needs.
Building a strong classroom community creates a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. It encourages students to grow and take pride in their accomplishments.
And it can even help with classroom management, encouraging students to share in the care and overall mood of the classroom.
These are just some of the many benefits of a classroom community. But before we get into the rest, we should talk about what exactly classroom community means.
What is classroom community?
Classroom community means building a classroom environment that is welcoming, safe, and warm. It helps shape classroom rules in a way that lets students know they’re cared about and valued.
Building a classroom community requires teachers to tune into their students’ social-emotional learning and mental health. Students aren’t just this year’s faces passing aimlessly through their classroom each day.
Educators know each and every one of them and strive to build a connection that will carry through the years.
The importance of building community in your classroom
The sense of community that teachers can help students feel can make or break their school experience. It influences their academics, their interactions with teachers, and their relationships with their peers.
Whether or not they feel like they belong at their school can affect their mood, their performance and the decisions they make.
When teachers foster a healthy classroom community, there are many potential benefits.
So, what are the benefits of a classroom community?
Here are nine of the top reasons to build a strong and loving community in your classroom.
Student learning and engagement
Learners who experience a sense of belonging show increased engagement in lessons and activities in the classroom. And this engagement has been shown to bring improved learning and academic outcomes in older students.
Increased trust between peers
In a classroom community, students discover that they can depend on each other.
Whether they’re having a bad day or just need someone to talk to, they know they can lean on their classmates because you’ve helped create a safe environment that fosters healthy relationships.
Student persistence and retention
Students must be persistent in the classroom, trying again and again even when they don’t understand something or can’t quite finish a task properly.
Decreased behavior issues
A strong classroom community helps students feel invested in their space because they’re able to take ownership of a space they occupy daily.
This fosters more respect for classroom materials and other students, likely translating into fewer behavior issues. The students want to keep their classroom clean and functioning well.
When you build classroom community, students feel happier and more satisfied with their school experience. They feel excited to come to school because it’s now a place where they can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.
Ownership of their learning experience
Students who feel that community often show greater motivation for learning and improving their academic skills.
They are an important part of how their classroom functions, giving them more agency in their learning experience.
Sense of collaboration
A classroom community helps students learn how to work well together. They experience collaboration and learn how to delegate based on one everyone’s strengths.
Increased academic risk-taking
Being in a supportive classroom climate develops a student’s self-confidence. This helps them feel confident enough to take risks in the learning process — putting themselves out there in order to ask questions and grow.
Inclusion of all students
Fostering classroom community from the very first day of school helps all students learn that they are welcome regardless of their race, background, abilities, or beliefs.
Being a champion of diversity in the classroom is an integral part of the classroom community and will help every student feel valued while embracing their differences.
How to build community in the classroom
So, how can you foster community in your classroom and reap all these benefits? Here are seven awesome ideas for building a nurturing classroom community.
Recognize what each student needs
When first coming back to school for the year, discuss each students’ needs. We all need safety, trust and belonging. The classroom rules that are set need to reflect these needs, making the classroom a safe space for students to learn.
Set a common goal and work toward it together
This doesn’t just mean the typical academic group project. The goal could be a charitable mission, or rallying around a student who needs extra support.
Maybe it’s a large mural everyone contributes to, covering an entire wall in love and hope.
There’s no right or wrong goal — just choose something your students care about and are excited to work together on.
A thank-you can go a long way. It tells a person their effort has been seen and appreciated. It tells them they’re important.
Create regular opportunities for students to share what they're thankful for. They may share gratitude about their home life or family. But also encourage them to share what they’re thankful for in the classroom to help foster a supportive classroom community.
Elevate students and give them a voice
From elementary school to high school, students need to feel heard, seen, and valued. Every student has a unique story and perspective to share. We want to build classroom communities that help students feel safe speaking up and sharing who they are with confidence.
Guide weekly meetings
Check-in often with your students through weekly class meetings. This can be a morning meeting or an afternoon meeting — whatever works best with your schedule.
Guide your class through a discussion on what’s going well and what needs to be improved in the classroom.
Be sure to rotate who leads and who talks during these meetings. Giving each student a chance to share reinforces that everyone’s ideas and thoughts are important. If you have a large class, you may find it easier to split the students into small groups.
Teach conflict resolution skills
One of the most important social-emotional skills children need to learn is how to handle conflict. They need the language to express what they’re feeling, along with listening skills and empathy to help them understand the person they’re in conflict with.
With so many students in one small classroom space, conflict is bound to happen. But it doesn’t need to negatively impact the classroom.
Classroom community is only possible when students are shown the skills they need to work through that conflict with respect.
Set goals often to build your classroom culture and climate
A school year is a long period of time in a child’s life! Your students will grow and mature throughout their nine months with you. The goals they have should change often to reflect this.
As you see the sense of community grow in your classroom, challenge your students to work together on even more difficult and meaningful tasks.
11 Community-building activities your students will love
Ready to start implementing community-building activities in your classroom? Here are some ideas to get you started.
Shoutouts are a fun way to keep students looking for the positive in their classmates. A ‘shoutout’ is when a student shares something awesome they’ve seen a classmate do or say.
When the classroom is loud or you’re ready to move on to the next activity, ask students if anyone would like to share a shoutout.
Or ask your students to share shoutouts throughout the day as they happen. This is a great way to keep your classroom’s energy high and full of positivity.
2. Paper Tweets
Paper tweets are short, encouraging sentiments that students write about one another.
Try having students write a paper tweet about one classmate they know really well, one they are casual friends with, and one they don’t know as well. Then send them over.
3. Friendly Fridays
Friendly Fridays are a fun weekly tradition. Every Friday students will be assigned a random classmate and will write them an anonymous, encouraging letter.
They can tell them something positive they saw them do or accomplish that week or just something they like about them.
4. Acts of kindness
Encourage your students to complete acts of kindness by giving secret kindness instructions.
These secret missions are covert ways they can encourage and grow closer to their peers. Some missions may include helping a student clean up a messy area or asking a new student to join them in a game on the playground.
You can also encourage your students to point out whenever they see a classmate doing an act of kindness. They can do this verbally or by posting the praise on a “kindness wall”.
5. This or That
This activity about preferences can get students up and moving while also helping them get to know one another. Pick two options and assign each one to one side of the room.
For example, you can ask, “Do you like cake or ice cream?” Students that like cake more will go to the left side of the room and the ice cream lovers will go to the right.
6. Group salutes
A group salute is another route for connection.
It’s a way for students to connect before or after working together. It can be a fist bump, high five, or even a secret handshake! Or it might just be a shared word, like a special greeting or a word of gratitude.
This routine can help break the ice when students start working together and help them celebrate when they’ve finished their task.
7. Rose, Thorn, Bud
In this activity, both you and your students share three things:
- Rose (something positive about their day)
- Thorn (something negative about their day)
- Bud (something they’re excited about)
With larger classes, this works better if students are split into smaller groups. Just remember to switch up the groups often so students get a chance to connect with everyone.
8. Warm & Fuzzies
At the beginning of the year, brainstorm with your students the behaviors you want to see in the classroom. Focus on ways to show kindness, cooperation, and acceptance.
Then, each time you see a student showing one of these behaviors, give them a fuzzy ball. Every fuzzy ball a student earns is put in the classroom jar.
When the whole jar is full, the whole class gets a reward!
9. Friend Wanted
Doubling as a creative writing exercise, Friend Wanted has students write an ad looking for the type of friend they want.
Once complete, you can post these on a wall to share. Then classmates can reply, helping new friendships grow.
This exercise can help students look beyond their small circle of friends and see the value each of their classmates bring.
10. THINK acronym
This classroom community-building activity consists of five questions:
- Is it True?
- Is it Helpful?
- Is it Inspiring?
- Is it Necessary?
- Is it Kind?
This acronym helps students learn to stop and take a moment before speaking. A momentary pause like this can stop conflicts before they even happen.
Displaying this acronym in a visual way in your classroom is a great way to help students remember and implement it.
11. Take a stand and stand
Another great icebreaker, this game shows students what they have in common.
Call out a characteristic students may have or an activity they might enjoy. Then if a student fits the criteria, they stand up.
Here are a few examples:
- Stand up if you’ve ever ice skated
- Stand up if you were born in 2012
- Stand up if you can play an instrument.
Go forth and build classroom community
Building a sense of community between your students can change the trajectory of their educational and personal journeys.
Don’t be afraid to seek out the professional development you need to implement these practices for your students.
The impact of community can be huge.
Want to give your students a common activity they’ll love to bond over?
And the best part — they’re fun! If you want to cater to the unique needs of your students while promoting classroom community, give Prodigy a try today.