Building your classroom community in the first days of school

Getting ready to build a culture for learning for back to school! Teaching tips and lesson ideas
 School has started and we have been working hard to learn some routines, get to know each other, and establish some positive classroom culture “vibes”.  I thought I’d share a few snapshots of some of the things we did to build our new classroom community!

Getting started building community

Of course, there were tons of things we did that I haven’t included…lots of anchor charts about expectations, shared picture books, body breaks (thanks, GoNoodle!), and more…but each of the things I have pictured did SOMETHING to move us forward in our attempt to build our classroom family. We have started talking at length about “growth mindsets” as well.
The first thing I want to establish early on is collaboration–in my class, we work together. ALL. THE. TIME.  Asking students just coming off of summer break to work in groups is not always reasonable…so I always start by establishing partnership expectations.  We talk about how to work together…how to invite your partner to participate…how to make sure we know how to help and ask for help, and so on.  This simple “making words” activity was a simple way for partners to work together and practice that “give and take”.
cooperative learning

Asking questions

Another skill we work on in the first days is learning how to go up to someone and ask a question.  For some more introverted students, this is really challenging so we have a discussion about how we can help shy people feel safe in these situations.  We practice using language that “includes” rather than excludes and also practice asking questions.  This “bingo” type activity helps students practice going up to other students and asking simple questions.  (“Do you have a cat?” “Do you have a brother?”) and then when they find a “match”, that person colors in the matching shape.  I walked around and coached students who were struggling with the interactions.

building classroom community
This is a part of a building classroom community resource.  Click HERE to see this one and the other activities included in it.

Addressing Work Quality

Another key part of our first days together is a discussion about work quality.  We worked together to make an anchor chart entitled “What is quality work” where we talked about neat printing and coloring, careful spelling, rereading our work and so on.  To practice, we working on making back to school “pennant glyphs” to display outside our classroom. Students from all the classes love to stop and “read” the pennants!

community in the classroom
This project is another part of my resource with ideas to build classroom community.  Click HERE to see more.

Getting to know each other also involves acknowledging our own traits!  One morning’s “warm up” activity was called “put yourself on the line”.  I do this throughout the year as a way to get students to express their opinions about different topics…they actually line up according to their beliefs.  This activity was a little different in that I put two cards on opposite ends of the line and asked students to stand by one of them–or somewhere in the middle. We did it three times…we put ourselves on the line for the following ideas:

shy ——- outgoing
rarely participate in class ——- participate a lot
leader  ——— follower

Leadership in the Classroom

We came back together as a class and had a discussion about these ideas–and how they impact learning and how we need to understand and appreciate each other.  We talked about positive leaders and negative leaders and how they affect our classroom community.  About ways to participate in class–even when it’s hard.  How to help shy students feel more comfortable–and how to not be overbearing if you are outgoing!  I am hopeful that all students have done some thinking about their role in our “family”–and how to make sure they can help others feel valued as well.

classroom community

Another activity we worked on was jigsaw puzzles…because it gave us a time to practice making “strategy suggestions” and then trying them.  Some groups decided to sort by color, others worked to find all the edge pieces, and so on.  We used this as a time to practice our “helping” stems where we talked about how to offer help, accept help, politely refuse help, and accept help graciously.  We worked cooperatively to put together 10 puzzles!

back to school

Time for Technology!

By the fourth day, I felt we might be ready for a big challenge–working as a team to get Chromebooks set up and organized.  I know many teachers get everything all set up ahead of time–but I ask students to figure out how to keep their crates organized and cables clear.  It seems they have more ownership when they put the time in ahead of time instead of me doing it.  It was NOT an easy challenge, but by the time we were finished, all 4 crates were assembled and the “Chromies” were charging so they could be used the next day.  WHEW!

Chromebook organization

Because I wanted to really set the stage for a year of reading in my class, I had desk groups each take a tour of my classroom library, learn how to care for it, and then browse through my thousands of books and start to generate a list of books they are interested in reading.  Want to see more about how my classroom library is organized?  I have a video tour HERE.  Students got SO excited to see all their options and to grab their first book.  We are off are ready to read now!

reader's workshop
This form is from my “Getting Ready for a Year of Reading” resource.

Next week is our first full week, so we will be really digging into content and more routines–but I definitely feel like we have gotten a great start on our classroom culture and that students can tell that we are going to have a great year.

Just click on any of the images above to learn more about the activities shown or click below!

CLICK HERE to learn more about my back to school pennant project.

CLICK HERE to see my helpful tools for getting reader’s workshop established.

Want some ready-to-use activities to build community and cooperation?  CLICK HERE!

Need help with teaching about growth mindset?  HERE YOU GO!

Looking for a fun, back to school cooperative math task?  CLICK HERE!

classroom culture