Espresso Shot: Creating a Classroom Community in an English Class

In the first month of school, teachers are usually focused on classroom setup, establishing procedures, launching routines, and digging into the first unit. Although we DO want students to be organized and to feel safe as individuals, we also need them to open up and collaborate as part of a bigger classroom community. 

Read on for 9 ideas about how to create bonding, shared experiences, and interactions that foster community-building. (By the way, you can check out a similar blog post of ours about community-building here.)

The SuperHERO Teacher
Teaching kindness and collaboration amongst students is such an important part of a positive classroom community! I love using interactive bulletin boards to encourage students to motivate each other. Recently, I created this nature-themed bulletin board using Polaroid frames with inspiring quotes, twine, and clothes pins. Basically, if students need a bit of motivation, they can take a quote from the board, but they must replace it with a new quote! At the end of the year, students will be exchanging quotes from each other-- making a strong classroom relationship! Here's the link

Addie Williams
I work hard to create a collaborative and welcoming classroom community and one way I do this is through writing about kindness. I share a kindness quote with my students as a writing prompt and have them work on it individually before sharing their ideas with a partner and then with a larger group. I ask them to look for similarities in their responses. Demonstrating to my students that I value kindness and community early on in the year will hopefully create a sense of caring throughout the year. Use these free Kindness Quotes to get started!

Secondary Sara
One of the hurdles to community-building is when students aren't willing to be vulnerable, they try to be perfect, or they compete instead of connect. As much as strengths and growth mindset are important, we teachers also need to help students identify and tackle their weaknesses in an honest way. I like doing this in a humorous way by "curing" student diseases. I joke about students who have "Procrastinitis", and when students own that problem, it becomes a springboard for other areas of concern as well (like upset binders, high test pressure, and silence infections). Get the poster set AND activities to accompany them here

Danielle Hall
One of the ways students build our classroom community is by working together to solve problems or puzzles. I use team trivia to start out our class at the beginning of the year, getting students used to collaborating and thinking critically.

 They develop a healthy sense of teamwork and competition.  Here's a free week to get you started.

The Classroom Sparrow
A simple way to create a positive classroom community is to display work from students around a classroom. It doesn't necessarily have to be an assignment, even a collaborative discussion full of insight from everyone in a class adds positivity and shows that everyone's opinion/view is valued! If you're lacking in work to display, simply begin a class with a simple prompt, motivational quote, or question! Here is a collaborative poem I had students create to begin a poetry unit. Everyone took 10-15 mins to cut out 30-40 words, then I paired students and peers to create a beautiful and colourful example of poetry, which remained on my bulletin boards for the length of the unit!

The Daring English Teacher
I teach at a very diverse school, and there are 23 different home languages represented in our student body. Bringing together such a diverse group can sometimes be challenging, so I created Classroom Community Bell Ringers to help us all find a common ground. These bell ringers include quotes about love, acceptance, diversity, and tolerance and a brief writing prompt. My students take the first five minutes in class to read the quote and quickly respond to the prompt. Then we share our responses aloud. This exercise has helped forge new connections amongst students who once thought there was no common ground.

Stacey Lloyd
At the beginning of the year we always spend time thinking about positive and negative behaviors in the classroom: social, emotional and academic. Students come up with their suggestions by walking around the room and anonymously adding their thoughts to various prompts. I then compile these into a list and have students all sign their names on the document - which stays on the wall all year. Any time I find a student acting out or being unkind or unhelpful, I point to their signature and hold them to account.

Room 213
We spend a great deal of time during the first few weeks building our classroom climate. I want kids to feel free to discuss their views and to know that it's okay to disagree with someone, as long as they do so respectfully. We develop a class code of conduct, and I put up posters to remind them to be empathetic, kind and understanding of differences. They are a good visual reminder of the things we discussed and the exercises we do during the first few days of school. You can grab them for free here.

Presto Plans
Building a positive classroom community is an intentional process. One way to do this is by having students complete short challenges that encourage kindness, collaboration, teamwork, expression, and the sharing of ideas and opinions. Start your year or semester by presenting short classroom challenges that can be used as bell-ringers, a class close-up activity, or a fun way to start or end the week. I suggest you set up a bulletin board that allows you to build suspense and reveal one challenge at a time. Make the challenges fun, collaborative, and stress-free. For example, you might consider getting students to write a thank-you card for someone, write a funny top 10 list, play a game of 20 questions, or interview a classmate.

We hope you enjoy these ideas! Tell us what you think, or tell us more ideas in the comments!
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