Building classroom community may be the last priority when so many items are on a teacher's to-do list each day.
Teachers are concerned about lesson plans, assisting students in getting ready for standardized tests, meeting targets, performing administrative duties, maintaining order, etc. As a result, devoting additional time to community-building endeavors may appear challenging.
While this is true, as educators know, one of the most successful ways to get students involved in their learning is to establish a classroom community.
By devoting time to community-building, teachers frequently notice challenges with students who may have fallen behind and are inspired to apply themselves to match the efforts of their peers.
The Importance of Community-Building
Though community-building is not a new concept, it has become increasingly important as schools face many challenges. The challenges may not be limited to high-stakes standardized testing and ever-changing technology.
There are many reasons why community-building is essential in the classroom. To meet the needs of all students, educators must provide an environment that encourages positive interactions among classmates. It can only happen when there is a sense of connection and belonging. When students feel like they are part of something larger than themselves, they are more likely to engage academically and behaviorally.
Since the trend of online teaching has taken over in recent years, educators need to learn how to foster community in an online classroom and ensure students engage in positive social interactions.
In addition to educational benefits, research indicates that when students feel connected to their peers and teachers, they are less likely to experience depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to resist peer pressure and be socially responsible.
Educators can use different themes to build classroom communities for older or younger students. For example, a classroom community for older students might promote leadership and responsibility, while a classroom community for younger students might focus on developing nurturing and caring relationships.
The most crucial part is that teachers take the time to get to know their students and help create an environment where everyone feels comfortable contributing.
So, how can teachers create a community in their classrooms? Here are some tips:
Keep Gratitude High:
Focusing on thankfulness is a beautiful technique to refocus and feel more attached to the community.
Teachers may implement this community-building approach in several ways. For example, a teacher may ask students to write down three things they are grateful for each day, share them with classmates, and post them in a designated classroom.
Another way to encourage gratitude is by having students thank one another frequently. For example, before leaving class, have everyone say goodbye and say what they appreciate about that person. It can foster a warm atmosphere and help people feel appreciated.
A sense of community cannot form when relationships are based on digital communication alone. To build trust and create meaningful connections, teachers need to be physically present as much as possible.
It doesn't mean teachers should never use technology in their classrooms. Instead, it means that technology should be used in addition to, not instead, personal interactions.
Create Opportunities for Discussion:
One way to help students feel connected is by creating opportunities for discussion. It can be done by having students work together on projects, answering questions in class, or participating in activities that require teamwork.
When students are allowed to talk to each other and share their thoughts and ideas, they will feel like part of a community.
Create Norms Together:
A great way to create a community is by creating norms together. Ask students what they think are essential behaviors and values in a classroom setting. Discuss what type of environment they would like to create together. Then, work together to make these things happen. It can help students feel like they have some ownership over the class and that their voices matter.
Appreciate and Give Regular Shout-Outs:
Giving shout-outs to students is another approach to building a sense of belonging. When students are praised for their accomplishments, good deeds, or simply for being themselves, they feel valued and connected to the class.
Create Opportunities for Group Work:
Group work can be an excellent way for students to get better to know each other and form connections. When students are working on a project together, they have the opportunity to express their thoughts, collaborate, and resolve issues. It can help them develop friendships and feel like part of a community.
Host Class Activities that Involve Everyone:
Class activities that involve everyone are another great way to foster community in the classroom. These activities can range from watching a movie together to playing a game to doing a project. When everyone participates, it helps create a sense of camaraderie and connection among classmates.
Make Connections Outside of School:
It's also crucial for students to make connections outside of school. It can be done by joining clubs or organizations, talking with friends and family members, or participating in online forums and groups related to their interests. When students have a sense of connection with others beyond the classroom, it helps them feel more engaged and supported both inside and outside of school.
Classroom communities are incredibly beneficial for both students and educators. By taking the time to foster these groups of learners, you can provide invaluable social-emotional support and lay the foundation for lifelong friendships. Making your classrooms into supportive communities sends a clear message to young people that they are valued and essential. As an educator, you can create a sense of community in your classrooms to transcend all differences and inspire positive change.