A Positive Classroom Community: Concrete Ways to Foster Unity from Day One

three students hugby Kristin M. Woolums, M.Ed.

We’d like to know: How do you foster a sense of community in your classroom? Leave a comment to share your idea! The best idea from this week’s posts will win a School Box gift card!

Face it; we’re a numbers-based society. We rely on GPAs, SATs, CRCTs, ITBSs, ACTs and other alphabet soup assessments, so how do we prevent our students from becoming just another number in our classrooms?

Good question! The answer is to connect with your students as individuals. If they know you care, they will want to meet your high expectations. Students who feel welcomed and valued are more likely to succeed academically, and connecting with their teacher–and with each other–is essential toward that end. Let’s look at some easy ways to foster connections in your classroom, starting on day one.

Teacher-Student Connections

The connecting process starts on day one. Greet each person at the door, address him/her by name and take note of special things about each student. For example, does he wear glasses? Does she have a nickname? Does he have a cold? A simple question like, “Are you feeling better today?” goes a long way in a student’s eyes toward knowing you care. Even after day one, make it a point to personally greet each student as they arrive.

Student-Student Connections

Give students a chance to bond with each other by initiating “study buddies.” Pair off students with like personalities or abilities. Study buddies serve several tasks: they ensure that their partners aren’t falling behind on an assignment, they keep up with assignments for absent partners, and they act as an assignment checker when you’re unable to check every child’s work. Take pictures of the study buddy partners (or threesomes) and give each person a copy to put in a special place to remind them that they have someone to call if they need help.

Whole Group Connections

Connecting as a whole group unifies your class. Begin the year with the following activity to initiate positive interactions, and then repeat it every time students fall prey to gossip or unkind acts.

Connecting Web: Have the group sit in a large circle. With a ball of yarn in your hand, pick a student to praise (maybe an unlikely candidate), and toss the ball while holding onto the end of the yarn. That student then praises someone, and tosses the ball (while also still holding onto the yarn). Continue until every person has heard something nice about him/herself and has had the opportunity to throw the yarn and say something nice to another student.

The result is a unique web, which opens the door for discussing that you’re a unique group–worth protecting by being kind to each other. To conclude,  give each student a piece of the web to wear on his/her wrist to symbolize the friendship of the class.

Connection is essential to the success of the students in any classroom. Start by building a relationship with each student, and then encourage students to bond with each other. Authentic, personal connections will ensure that your students never feel like a number.

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.

We’d like to know: How do you foster a sense of community in your classroom? Leave a comment to share your idea! The best idea from this week’s posts will win a School Box gift card!

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2 Comments

Filed under Classroom Community, Motivation, Teaching

2 responses to “A Positive Classroom Community: Concrete Ways to Foster Unity from Day One

  1. Sandra

    Here is an idea to get to know your students better:

    Have an area close to the door (wall space/bulletin board) where you can display things about you (the teacher). Pictures of family, pets, hobbies, diplomas, etc. – things that the students and any one entering your room would be interested in seeing.

    Have just as much space for a student to display the same type of things (decide how often you want to change the board and make that determine if you have a student of the week, 2 weeks, or month but be sure every student has a chance to be featured) . Let them include pictures of home, pets, art work the like, papers or grades they are proud of. The teacher should have a picture of every student on hand in case the child doesn’t bring anything from home. At least they will have some things created at school and a picture.

    This helps student learn things about each other that might go unseen any other way.

  2. Elizabeth

    I love both of the ideas. I’m going to try them both this week.