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Six Ways to Create a Classroom Community

Term may have already started, but it’s never too late to be encouraging a community spirit in your classroom. Children attend school for roughly 200 days a year. 200 x 6-hour days – that’s 1200 hours (!) that they spend in and around your classroom. Surely then, that means that your classroom should be a space where they are happy, safe and comfortable?

To make sure this is exactly what it is, we’ve compiled six of our favourite ways that you could be creating a classroom community.

1. Morning Meetings

The community spirit should begin the second students step through the classroom door. Greet them all by their name, show them that you remember them and care about them. Once everyone is in, it should be time for a morning meeting.

A Morning Meeting can be anything, but it should always start by bringing everyone together. Here are a few of our favourite ways to get everyone to greet each other:

  • “We are here!”

Everyone stands in a circle and claps a steady beat. Working your way around the classroom, greet everyone with a song:

“____ is here!

_____ is here!

It’s a great day because _____ is here!”

During this, whoever is being sung about walks around the inside of the circle. They can wave, give high fives, dance, hop… maybe give them some options and let them have their moment of fame. At the end you can add to the song:

“We are here!

We are here!

It’s a great day because we are here!”

  • Echo Greeting

Everyone stands in a circle. Going around the circle, each child will say… “Hello, my name is _____ and I’d like to say good morning!”

When they say good morning, they should say it in a way that is as unique as possible. For example, one might say good morning in a very low voice with their hands on their head. Everyone then should say good morning back in a very low voice with their hands on their heads!

  • The Friday Greeting

A special one for the last day of the week! Children come together and chant at one of their classmates:

“Hello, ________!

The weekend is near!

What are you going to do when it’s here?”

The classmate then responds…

“Hello friends!

I’m going to ___________.”

The class can then simply respond “Got it!” and move on to their next classmate. It’s worth reminding your students to keep their weekend plans short – just a few words will do.

Your meetings can then easily move on and be a reminder of upcoming trips, an opportunity to recap yesterday, a time to discuss something that someone has bought in, or even a time to gently remind your students of your rules and expectations. The first 10 minutes of the day can set up a wonderful feeling of a classroom community with just a little bit of effort.

2. Let your students make the decisions…

Talking of rules and expectations, who made those up? Was it you? Did you just copy the school’s guidelines? Why not let your students create their own classroom rules – with a little guidance, of course!

Giving your students the ability to make their own decisions about their behaviour should make them more likely to stick to the rules. Perhaps once a month, or more frequently if needed, the rules can be revised or added to if any situations arise.

What about how your classroom looks. Did you decorate it all over the summer holidays? I bet it looks amazing, but do you think that your students might like to leave their mark and have a say in how it looks? If letting them loose on the whole room is too much, maybe give them their own display where they can show off the work they’re most proud of. Maybe let them pick the table layout every half term.

3. Employ your students

This isn’t the time to get your students to be your personal dish washers or car cleaners, but it is an opportunity to get your students feeling responsible.

“Student jobs offer leadership opportunities while reinforcing the values of responsibility and community service in an immediate, authentic way.”

Ariel Sacks

Classroom jobs can encourage a never-ending skill set in children – independence, self-motivation, time management, team work… but they can also build excitement, community and interdependence with a dash of morale boosting and confidence building powers. Classroom jobs can really build a sense of community when the job roles support each other. For example, the paper collector would have nothing to collect without the paper passer to hand out the worksheets. The line end would be keeping everyone aimless without the line leader.

These job roles can be as a big or as small as you like. A desk monitor can just make sure that the tables are clean by the end of the class, or a librarian can keep the classroom’s books tidy, keep them in order and keep track of what’s there and what’s not.

Not only can employing your students create community, it can free up time for you too. You can focus on the teaching and not on clearing the tables at the end of each class.

4. Monthly Class Newsletter

Newsletters in schools are nothing new, but they tend to cover the whole school and it’s often the teachers who decide the content, not the children. Here’s where you can have some fun!

Get your students involved in creating a monthly newsletter about your class. Not the whole school, but about their classroom and what’s been going on inside it. You might need to give them a structure to work with – one piece of news about something they’ve learnt, one piece of news about something someone in the class achieved, one piece of artwork that someone has done… there’ll be a lot that the children’ll want to share!

You can even take it a notch further – make the class one big news room. Assign everyone a role – researchers, writers, editors, photographers! And every month, the children can swap roles.

Not only does this get everyone working together, but it helps to keep parents in the loop. No more “What have you done at school today?” answered with “I don’t remember.”

5. Utilise Social Media and the Internet

If a newsletter is a little old fashioned, or you don’t have the printing facilities, there’s nothing to stop you from getting your class online.

Hundreds of primary schools around the world can be found on Twitter. They share news, updates, photos of their classes, pictures of achievements… you name it, they find a way to include it on their social media. It’s a great way to keep the parents at home engaged with the school – they can see exactly what their child’s class is up to, and keep up to date with them when they’re on school trips. We compiled a list of some of our favourite schools on Twitter that you can see here.

Year 1 teacher Gemma Hathaway, of Smithdown Primary School in Liverpool, got her class blog running in 2016 and posts everything on it – from asking readers to introduce themselves to the class, to what the lessons have been about, to posting individual students’ work. The blog is full of pictures, videos and questions for the outside world to answer. The internet can be a bit intimidating, but it’s full of classroom community opportunities.

6. Include the Parents

No matter what you do in the day, when the clock hits home time, your students will leave for another night. The classroom community goes on pause, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Research shows that not only are children more likely to succeed academically when their parents are active in their learning, but they’re less likely to present any behavioural problems too. Bringing the parents, their ideas and their support into the classroom can bridge the gap between school and home, and really enforce that community spirit.

To list every way you could get parents involved in the classroom could take forever, so here’s just a few ideas:

  • Let them know when they’re needed!

If parents aren’t being told what they can be doing to help your class, then the chances are that they’re not going to do anything. Need a couple of extra hands on a school trip? Need some donations for old shirts to wear in art? Use your methods of communication to let them know.

  • Whole family learning

Parents might be grown-ups, but that doesn’t mean they know everything! Offer an evening every half term where parents can come in with their children and see what they’re learning. Give them a quick lesson in place value or adverbs vs. adjectives. They’ll appreciate it when their child comes home with homework that they wouldn’t have understood before!

  • Don’t forget the working parents

As easy as it is to say you’ll invite parents in to the classroom, it’s just as easy to forget that often they’re at work too. Be flexible in how you work alongside these parents – can you set up skype or phone meetings alongside your parents evening appointments? Can you organise any weekend activities once or twice a year that they could attend so you get some face to face time with them too? Just don’t forget to keep them in the loop and let them be part of decision making. They’ll appreciate it and their children will feel the benefits of their parents being engaged in their learning.

There are 101 ways that you can use to create your classroom community…

These are just a few of our favourite methods. It’s not always easy keeping the harmony in your classroom, but when school is a place of routine, safety and growth for so many children, it should be easy to make the decision to work hard to make your classroom the best it can be.

This post originally appeared on the propeller.education website. Propeller is a part of the Show-me brand.