The morning bell rings and you open the door. You’re ready to introduce yourself to the students on the first day of school. You’ve got this. You’ve spent days collecting resources and prepping the first month’s worth of lessons. The summer Professional Development is fresh in your memory. You even remembered where you wrote down notes in last year’s planner. You know the state standards, and how to teach them. You know how to add enrichment and intervention activities to each lesson plan. Now, it’s time to begin building classroom communities.
You realize for all of that to work, you have to build rapport, not only with your students but among your students. Building classroom community through activities can be fun, quick, and easy. It’s a way to build a collaborative and productive learning environment for classes at any grade level.
Building Classroom Communities
In addition to being fun, community builders help the class in numerous ways.
First, community building activities help teachers and students get to know one another.
The simplest questions about students’ interests show that you care enough to listen, and also give you a chance to see how they think. And, this information can help you frame lessons, not only based on learning styles but learning interests. Students who claim to hate math might enjoy discussing the statistics of their favorite players, or students who think poetry is boring might know the lyrics to every song in the top 40. After all, the adage, “They won’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care” is true. So, knowing that a teacher wants them to succeed makes a huge difference in students’ motivation.
Community building activities help build relationships within the class.
So, what teacher doesn’t like to see their class working as a team to reach a common goal? As a matter of fact, the more students know about each other, the more they relate, and the more they see how they can help each other. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard students say, “Oh, I like that game/movie/team/hobby too!” during these activities. In fact, nearly every time it leads to a team effort between those students throughout the school year.
Community building activities help students be heard.
Students may be reluctant to raise their hands to answer a multiplication question, but they’ll dive into a conversation about Minecraft. As teachers, we are always looking for ways to build learner confidence. Team builders give students the opportunity to speak confidently and realize they are assets to the learning community with valuable things to say.
Team-builders or ice-breakers provide a wonderful foundation to build around. Many can be completed in a short amount of time, but the benefit to the classroom by using activities like these will continue throughout the year.
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