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February 16, 2014

Building a Caring Community of Learners

As a classroom community, we share our thoughts, listen to one another, actively participate together, introduce new concepts and ideas, read together, sing together, and build a sense of respect and support for one another. Even in our infant and toddler classrooms, teachers are modeling the foundations for positive conversation and praising the charismatic gestures and comments (babble) that little ones express. Regardless of whether the interaction occurs with a pair of students or the entire group, building community is one of the most important rituals you can establish in your classroom.

What are some specific ways to boost community building in your classroom? Here are just a few to try:1239923_10151746534046220_1855932231_n

  • Compliment Circle (best for ages 3+, but can be modified) – This gives everyone the warm and fuzzies. Each day, invite one student to sit in the middle of the circle. Everyone on the outside thinks of a compliment to give to that student and shares them one at a time. I always tried to model how to give compliments for things that aren’t things. For example, “One of my favorite things about you is the way you take care of your classmates. You’re careful not to hurt their feelings and you’re quick to comfort a friend who is sad.” The compliment circle is great for developing language, teaching children how to humbly accept a compliment, teaching “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” and talking about how great it feels to give a compliment as well as receive one. Once everyone has a turn, continue the new tradition once a week. They will probably request it!
  • Interactive Stories (appropriate for all ages) – Plan for ways to keep children actively involved in story-time by providing puppets, props, instruments, and other visual supports to participate during read-alouds. When students are passively sitting while you do all the talking, engagement dwindles, which can also lead to behavior issues. Students can listen and absorb great literature while moving!
  • Sing & Move (appropriate for all ages) – Song and dance are always great ways to redirect, change the mood of the room, ignite engagement, and transition if needed. Community music experiences can be as quick as a ten second chant or a longer repetitive song. These ‘signals’ can tell students what is about to happen in a fun and engaging way. If you haven’t already, begin incorporating a handful of songs throughout your day that signal a particular part of your routine: mealtime, time to go outside, let’s read a story before we nap, etc. Children love to know what’s going to happen next and feel empowered with they are a part of it.


Bells Are Ringing (Tune: “Are You Sleeping?”)

Bells are ringing, bells are ringing, hear them chime, hear them chime,

Telling all the children, telling all the children,

Circletime, circletime

Clean Up

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s clean up time you know.

Put toys away for another day

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, heigh-ho!

  • Technology (appropriate for ages 3+) – For our preschool, pre-K, and school age students, our ABC Mouse technology includes a variety of songs, games, and virtual field trips that classrooms can explore as a whole group. This helps students become more familiar with navigating the site and highlights areas of interest that they may want to rediscover on their own. By using the classroom account (teacher avatar) you can go on adventures as a class, collect tickets, and make decisions together on what kinds of things to purchase and budget for. This actually helps children begin to learn basic civic and democratic principles.

How do you build a better classroom community? Please share your ideas in the comments section!