Building A Positive Classroom Community

With the pressure for secondary teachers to meet curriculum expectations in such a limited time, building a classroom community can sometimes be put on the back burner.  What many teachers don’t realize is that by intentionally taking time to build a positive community in your classroom, you can ease the challenges of classroom management, improve student attitude toward learning, and create an environment where students feel welcomed and supported.   

Below are my 5 favorite ways to build classroom community in middle and high school.

Establish a positive classroom community by having students complete short activities that encourage kindness, collaboration, teamwork, expression, and the sharing of ideas and opinions.

These challenges don’t need to take up a lot of time.  Have them last 5-10 minutes.  They can be used daily as a bell-ringer, weekly as a fun Friday  activity, or even randomly when you finish class a few minutes early!  
Build classroom community by setting up a classroom challenge bulletin board!  Students reveal one prompt a day and then complete the corresponding activity.  They take only 5-10 minutes each and will help to make build student relationships!
How it works: The teacher sets up a "Classroom Challenge" bulletin board display that includes 20 hidden activity prompts. Once a challenge is revealed, the teacher finds the corresponding activity, passes it out to the class, and they are ready to go!

Here are a few of the prompts I include in my challenge to give you an idea of the types of activities can help build community:

• Write a thank you card for someone you appreciate.
• Talk for one minute to a partner about the topic you receive from your teacher.
• Write a top 10 list on the topic of your choice.
• Imagine you are stuck on a deserted island. Pick one book, one movie, and one other item to bring.
• Play a game of 20 questions with a partner.

You know that nostalgic feeling you get when you are reminiscing with your friends about times past?  Bring that into your room with “Classroom Throwbacks.”  Students use small cards to write down funny, interesting, and memorable moments that happen within the classroom and put it in the “Classroom Thowbacks” jar/box.  
Build classroom community with this FREE resource where students write down funny, interesting, and memorable moments that happen within the classroom.  Later on in the year, take the cards out for a "Throwback Thursday" activity to share class memories.
You can have students fill out the cards randomly, or you can pass them out from time to time, put students in small groups, and have them fill the cards out with a couple memories.  Once the throwback jar starts to accumulate some cards, you can begin sharing them in class.  You might consider sharing one a week for a “Throwback Thursday” activity. Grab this free resource by clicking here.

I once had a principal who left notes of appreciation (and a small treat) in teachers’ mailboxes for little things she had noticed them doing (staying late at school working, helping out at an after-school event, giving extra help at lunch etc.). It was such a small gesture, but it had a dramatic impact on the morale of the staff. Build this same kind of morale in your classroom by finding ways to celebrate your students for the things you see them doing that deserve some praise and appreciation.  There are lots of ways you can do this.  You can post student work in your classroom, call or email parents to brag up those students who don’t often get a pat on the back, or even have a student of the month/week display for those who deserve special recognition!  I also like to keep funny cards tucked away in my desk for those occasions where a student surprises or impresses me.
Build classroom community by tucking these funny cards away in your desk to give to students when they impress or surprise you!
Ask for volunteers for “student paparazzi”. Their job is to take pictures of students in the classroom and send them to you via email to print and post. Of course, students should only take pictures when you deem it appropriate.  They could take some before and after the bell rings or during a class activity (when appropriate and with permission) or at the end of the period if class finishes up a couple minutes early. When you post the pictures in your classroom, consider framing them! I pick up low-cost frames at the dollar store and put them in different locations in my classroom (on the wall, on my desk, on the desk at the front of my room, on a bookshelf).  No need to go use expensive photo paper.  Simply print the pictures on regular letter paper to fit the frame's size (pictures below from the classrooms of @CamilaCdipietro and @Tarafarah7)
Build classroom community by keeping framed pictures of students within the classroom!
Framed photos create a home-like, family atmosphere where students feel welcomed and accepted.   If you have a classroom website or social media account, you could also post the pictures there as long as you have parent media release permission forms.    

Providing students with an opportunity to reflect on the positive moments of the week and look forward to the next week is another way to help foster classroom community.  One way you can do this is by starting a weekly tradition called “Friday 5-4-3-2-1”.  
Students fill out the sheet by jotting down 5 things that made them smile, 4 words to describe the week, 3 things they have planned for the weekend, 2 things they learned, and 1 goal they have.  Give students a few minutes to fill it out and have them share with a partner, a small group, or have a whole class discussion.  If you’d like to try this out with your students, you can download it for free here.  You can also choose to make up your own 5 prompts, as a blank version is included!  Just write the prompts on the board and students can fill it out. 

Looking for more ways to promote class community?  Find more ideas below!

Student-Teacher Conferences from The SuperHERO Teacher
Classroom Community Bell-Ringers from The Daring English Teacher
The Kindness Project from Room 213

Do you have any other ideas for fostering a positive classroom community?  Click the comments button at the top of the post and share your ideas! 

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