Building a Community

Let’s talk classroom community.
How do you foster a sense of community in your classroom?

This is something I try to create from the minute they walk into my room on Open House. I want students to feel comfortable and safe… every teacher does, right? I want students to feel like they can take risks and try, without being afraid of failure. How do we get students there?

Classroom community. We work together. We are a team. We cheer each other on. How do I do this? Here are two ways I build a community.

In a community there must be rules.

My first few years teaching I created the rules with my students the first day. I loved this. We had great discussions. But, with all things I had to remember I kept forgetting the rules and the numbers we assigned to them. I would mix up rules from previous years, it was a mess. So, I started using Whole Brain Teaching rules. Much easier for me. I post these rules in a visible spot with the assigned number for easy referral. We still had genuine discussions about the rules and what they meant to us, and students still took ownership. I encourage students to hold each other accountable for the rules, and in turn this helps them learn to work out problems on their own. Ok, yes I mediate A LOT at the beginning of the year, but eventually they are able to talk to each other about a rule they did not follow and how it made them feel.

In a community everyone must be held responsible.
Everybody has a job and plays a part. I use classroom jobs to teach accountability. I assign the line leader (ABC order) every Monday and the other kids pick their job after announcements that morning. To make this task quick I create a clip chart, so students could do it themselves. I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year making sure jobs are done correctly and setting the standard of expectation. Eventually I can back off and the students hold each other accountable. Who didn’t stack the chairs? We need more pencils sharpened. Who needs to wipe the tables today? These are often questions I hear them ask each other. But it takes work on the front end. If I don’t teach them how to do the jobs well then they won’t get done the way we need them to. They won’t hold each other accountable, if I don’t do it first.
If you like my clip chart or rules posters you can get them here....

Class Jobs: Shabby Chic Clip Chart {EDITABLE}

Shabby Chic: Classroom Decor {Editable}

How do you form a sense of classroom community?

A Teacher's Bag of Tricks

So, I have an embarrassing story I have to share.

It was the fall my first year teaching. Football season, so only a month or two into the school year. I was tailgating in Auburn with my besties' family and our friends. Between beverages I was chatting with a girl who had been teaching for three years.

I was venting about the many problems I had already encountered as a new teacher. She mentioned I needed to create my bag of tricks. Bag of tricks? Maybe it was the beverages, because I thought she meant literal bag of things. I eagerly asked her what she kept in her bag and where she kept it for easy access. Needless to say she quickly realized my interpretation and why I needed help.

I spent much of the summer before my first year planning for how I would decorate my classroom. Bright colors, flowers, and a reading garden. What I should have spent my time doing was building my "bag of tricks". My procedures and routines.

Don't make this mistake. Don't be the naive girl who thinks a teacher's bag of tricks is a tote bag you walk around pulling magic out of. Even if you have been teaching for years, it's never too late to improve your classroom management. So, I have brainstormed a list of questions to help you build that brag of tricks or rethink somethings you are already doing.

How will students line up?

How will you get students' attention?

How will you dismiss them from whole group?

How will they know to rotate centers or switch small groups?

Will you have classroom jobs? What will they be? Will you assign them or will students pick them?

How will you manage your class library? How many books can students "check out"?

What is your bathroom procedure?

What is your pencil procedure?

Where are extra supplies? How do students get these?

What is your morning routine? Dismissal?

What are your hallway expectation? Lunch room? Specials?

How will students know recess is over? Where do they line up?

How will you communicate with parents?

How will you ensure students are aware of their progress?

What are your expectations for group work?

What are your consequences for breaking a rule? What if they break two?

What positive reinforcement will you use?

How will students pick partners?

Feeling overwhelmed? I am sorry! Yes, it is A LOT to think about. I have your back.

Jessica from Notes from the Portable and I created an ebook to help you think through these questions and provide you with multiple solutions. I wish I had this when I first started... but now I get to share my bag of tricks with you.

Jessica also created a very handy classroom management planner to help you stay organized! You'll love the management journal and editable planner to keep track of student behavior and parent communication.
Classroom Management Book and Planner

Want more? Read Jessica's Ultimate Guide for Back to School! She has 29 tips you need to read before going back.
Also, check out my post Starting the Year Off Strong to get you thinking about routines and procedures.