With so many students learning at home, at school or in some combination of the two, building classroom community is more important than ever. We know that different teaching and learning situations can make doing so a little more challenging, so we’ve asked our amazing Master Teachers to share how they’re helping students feel connected this school year.
Read on for their ideas!
1. Greet Every Student
We know it sounds simple, but it’s so important! Melissa Volpini, who teaches 1st grade, greets her students by name each and every day. It might be via Zoom or video call, but it’s one way educators can ensure every student feels seen and heard.
2. Assign Classroom Jobs
Fourth Grade Teacher Felix Saji says that classroom jobs have been a great way to help his students feel like they’re part of the classroom community and have a role to play. He even makes it feel official by giving them an application to fill out and holding “job interviews.” The jobs might change a bit moving from an in-person classroom environment to a virtual one, but it’s still possible. Time keepers, morning meeting leaders or weather announcers are just a few! Kindergarten Teacher Sheila Hommema even likes to hold a “Career Day” for her students to expose them to real jobs in the community. This year, they even had the opportunity to ask questions of the real mayor of their city.
3. Host Morning Meetings
You probably have a packed day already. But if you can, squeeze in time for a class meeting. It’s worth it! Second Grade Teacher Alex Brewer says it’s a critical time to greet each other, check in, share feelings, play games, read books and get to know one another. She’s always done class meetings in person, but has found a way to make them work online. “It’s a great time to get to know one another, share the things we have in common and celebrate our differences,” says Ms. Brewer.
4. Connect Through Reading
Cari Martinez teaches 6th-8th Grade and serves as the technology coordinator for her school. She likes to have her kids share new book finds on a group Google Jamboard she’s set up on her ELA class pages. Kids can share their thoughts about the books by adding virtual sticky notes. Third Grade Teacher Jana Holland has students submit their favorite books at the beginning of every year—that way, by the first morning meeting, they already have a great list of book recommendations. It’s also a chance to learn a lot about one another just by hearing about books they love.
5. Plan All About Me Activities
Kids love being able to share facts about themselves, and 1st Grade Teacher Kathy Sahagian found a creative way to do this digitally using Google Slides. She created the template, put one name on each slide and then let each student write and add pictures of what they love to do so they could get to know each other a bit better. Third Grade Teacher Jessica Nixon Hageman likes to give her students an opportunity to interview one another, and Curriculum Coordinator Allison Straker encourages her kindergarten and 1st-grade students to write and share “I Am” poems.
6. Create a “Community Promise” Collaboratively
Second Grade Educator Amanda Alba and 3rd Grade Teacher Casslyn Fiser both have seen the power of creating classroom rules and expectations together as a class. When students feel like they have a voice in the process, it can help them feel more invested and go a long way toward building a stronger classroom community overall.
Have you found ways to build community with your students this year? Let us know on Instagram or Facebook using #EpicEducators and tagging @epic4educators!