The idea of creating classroom community isn’t new, but its vitality to learning has never diminished. In a classroom that has a sense of togetherness and alignment, students learn better. Not only do they connect more strongly to learning, but their connection to others also improves. They develop better communication and collaboration skills, and become more compassionate and helpful individuals. The result is an environment of support and trust where everyone grows together.
It’s to every teacher’s benefit to make creating classroom community a priority, for them and their learners. Below are some ideas for how to do this. You may already be practicing some of these in your learning spaces. If that’s the case, good for you—keep doing what you’re doing. However, if you’re wanting more of the community mindset in a classroom you feel truly needs it, then these ideas will help you.
Establish Rules Together
Your learners will respond better to rules they’ve had a hand in making. At the beginning of every school year, open the discussion about guidelines and best practices for creating classroom community. Get learners involved in imagining and sharing what would make a harmonious learning space for everyone that year. This teaches them responsibility and mindfulness, and also builds leadership capacity early on.
List ideas and put them to a vote if you like. Another way is to break the class into teams to draft up guidelines for discussion. Ultimately, what you’re steering students toward is establishing rules that protect and benefit everyone. This also applies to everybody outside of your class. Even visitors must feel safe and welcome but still be expected to contribute to the harmony of the space.
Something that can affect the sense of community in a classroom is when students learn at different speeds. When a struggling learner feels left behind, they can disconnect from everyone else. As a teacher, you can’t be everywhere at once. It can be hard to give every individual student the attention they need. That’s why this is the perfect time to begin establishing a mentorship network in your class.
Talk to learners who are excelling at certain subjects and ask them if they would be interested in mentoring those struggling learners. From here, you can team up mentors with students you know they will connect to beneficially. Anything like this will require you to establish a solid communication and feedback system with class mentors. As a result, you’ll be well-informed on how your slower learners are progressing and what they still need help with.
Consider Common Interests
Teachers notice many things students don’t, such as what they have in common with people outside their peer groups. Mixing it up among who your learners interact with is a great way to build classroom community. Learners who never would have dreamed of working with certain people can find connection and friendship through such interests.
Although this can work wonders, oftentimes it can be risky to approach. Kids deal with peer pressure, ridicule, and fear of alienation from their established cliques—all of which can affect their decisions. The most important thing you can do here is make sure they know the priority in their classroom is everyone having the best learning experiences possible. Sometimes this can mean stepping outside their comfort zones, because that’s how you grow. Students must know that creating classroom community is about bringing people together, not breaking them apart.
Provide a Safe Place
Set an example by treating everyone in your class with the same respect, patience, expectation, and attention. In this way every student knows he/she will be safe. When they see how you treat everyone else, they know they will be treated the same. If you show kids how important kindness is by taking every opportunity to be kind yourself, they will follow.
The atmosphere in your class has to have an aura of safety even for the most difficult of children. This is a sacred rule for creating classroom community for all learners. Show your students that you yourself are comfortable in the environment that you’ve created. Then before you know it, they will begin to grow more at ease themselves.
Do Away With Judgement
If your learners feel like they might get judged negatively by their peers, they will stop opening themselves up. To combat this, you need to create an environment free from judgment. Let learners know that differing opinions are a great thing and that being “wrong” isn’t a bad thing. Remind them also that failure is a learning experience. Even something as simple as this will put you on your way to creating the sense of classroom community your kids always dreamed of.
One of the biggest benefits of creating classroom community is that students tend to take pride in their work and in themselves. One of the best ways to help your kids along is to celebrate their achievements as they are happening. By celebrating all students, you foster an open environment filled with happiness and creativity.
If a student writes a particular essay you’re really impressed with, read it out loud for everyone else to hear. If a student draws a particularly striking image, post it in public so everyone else can enjoy it. The student may not be comfortable with this, though. As such, they’ll feel more of a sense of trust if you ask them first. This also shows that you respect their feelings and personal space.
How are you creating classroom community with your learners?
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