How do you build Classroom Community?
As educators we are so used to buzzwords flying about and one contemporary buzzword is Student Ownership. We hear it all the time, we know what it should look like, but how do we start?
We START, by STOPPING… we Stop Teaching so we can Start Reaching. However, we can only do this if we have built a strong foundation for the classroom community, and this begins on the first day of school.
The first week of school is so important to lay the foundation for the entire year. From the minute school starts, we need to be fostering relationships and cultivating a community environment in order for students to eventually own their learning. So what should this first week look like? There are many approaches, here is just one structure to map out the first 5 days.
Begin the first day with community building. Take the time for students to get to know each other and you. You can do this through some fun ice breakers and then end the class by introducing a couple procedures that will set your expectations, for example how students enter and exit, what to do if students are late or absent, and a class tour so students know where to find everything. On the second day, continue building relationships by diving a little deeper into who each student is. Try the Tree of my Life activity, and allow students to share out. If they are comfortable, have students hang these around the room. It will help to share the lives of students as well as create some decor. Day 3 should focus more on building the procedures needed to have a healthy class community. Use the procedures list to select the most important procedures to introduce. This day can also introduce how students can alter the environment and the multiple ways to move the space, for example circle, horseshoe, debate style, groups, and pairs. Day 4 is my favorite because we build our leadership and this is paramount to student ownership. Determine how you would like to develop the leadership within your class. You can have class representatives that are voted on or appointed, and you can label your leaders with industry titles that represent your subject (Chief Editor, CEO, President, Commissioner). Determine what the hierarchy for this leadership team will be and schedule leadership team meetings. Finally, on the 5th day build the syllabus. If we want students to own their learning, then they need to be a part of the process. I use a generic syllabus with some non-negotiables, and then I allow the students to assist in the development of the rest.
When we begin the school year by laying this foundation then we can allow student to own their learning and we can Stop Teaching.
Want a copy of ice breakers, tree of life, procedures list, leadership hierarchy, and a generic syllabus? Just tell us where to send your First Day Resources guide.
Want more ideas about how to Stop Teaching and Start Reaching your students? Check out Stop Teaching: Secrets to Becoming a Great Teacher. Although this text was composed with first year secondary teachers in mind, these Secrets can be used by anyone!
Beginning as an all access pass to the emotional rollercoaster your brain endures as a teacher, Stop Teaching quickly morphed into the secrets to becoming a great teacher by fostering student ownership and classroom community. Part I provides the secrets of teaching and comes complete with candid explanations and plethora of strategies to store in your toolbox for when the same situation reveals itself to you. Part II gives you a play-by-play of the phases of teaching along with checklists to make sure you are prepared. Part III previews the resources available in the supplemental handbook Start Reaching from The unTeacher Lab Professional Development series.
And visit www.stopteaching.org to see how you can Stop Teaching and Start Reaching!
Have a great start to the school year!
Jaime Patterson is the Executive Director of Creative Affairs for EducationCloset. She is passionate about supporting educators in their pathway to teaching and learning through arts integration and STEAM.