Sunday, April 1, 2018

Building Classroom Community - ALL YEAR LONG!

Tomorrow morning, we will embark on the remainder of our school year as it is the first day back from spring break. There's always a few things that I intentionally plan for after a break/long weekend from school to start our day and week off on the right foot: 
  1.  Greet students at the door with a smile and hug/high 5, or other greeting that makes them feel welcome, excited, and happy to enter our room. 
  2. Review rules/expectations
  3. Build Community: Chit-chat and share out 

At this point in the year, students know the rules and expectations, but always benefit from a refresher. First things first, we will kick off our morning with a little review of the classroom rules and school wide STAR expectations for behaviors in all areas of the school. Carving time out for the basics are essential to creating a classroom environment where everyone can learn, be happy, and succeed.

Next, before we jump into any academic work, we will take time to see what everyone has been up to. I am genuinely interested in who they are outside of the classroom, what they like to do, and how they spend their time. This is how I get to know my students, build relationships, and teach the whole child all year long. I create time to talk and share out (sometimes in whole group, sometimes in partners or small groups) - every time we have a break, and also every Monday as part of our 'weekend news'. 

I want my class to know and care about each other, and know how much I care about them. It is easy to want to jump back into the long list of things to teach, standards to master, and data to record, but you need this to get to that. Having conversations and showing we care about each other is the heart of our classroom; it is the foundation that we can build upon. When I create time to talk to my students, to let them talk and share about their lives, we can tackle a lot of things together - academically, socially, emotionally, and otherwise. 

When working with younger students, I always have parents email photos of their vacations or 'staycations' so that students have a visual reminder as a conversation starter. Not only are visuals great for the audience, it anchors the speaker to certain topics and narrows their talking points to have a productive conversation. Other students can ask questions or make connections - and so, while I do not technically attach a standard to this when I write my lesson plans, we are certainly practicing speaking and listening skills! When students are talking in partners, we have a 'strive for 5' goal where students aim for 5 exchanges of back and forth talking about one topic. The strive for 5 strategy helps students elaborate on a personal narrative/topic, which can also lead into narrative writing skills after the oral story-telling. 

Tomorrow is Monday! Enrich your students' morning with some great conversation....they will feel so loved and valued! Then, go tackle all the other great stuff that will make their minds grow! 

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