Monday, August 10, 2015

Building Community in the Classroom

Building a strong community in the first month of school is so important to the success of your classroom.  When students feel part of a whole, they are more likely to be engaged in what they are learning.  Here are a few of my favorite community builders.  These have been successful with second and third graders but could be used for lower and higher grade levels.

  1. Hula Hoop Challenge - As a class, stand in a large circle holding hands.  One pair will start with the hula hoop between their connected arms.  The goal is to pass the hula hoop around the circle as students continue climbing through.  Remember - you cannot let go of each other!  I like to stop after each round and have the students discuss what went well and what they will do differently next time to make the passing of the hula hoop faster.  The students love to keep track of time and try to beat their previous pace.   
  2. Count to 10 - This community builder involves patience, self-control, and listening.  As a class, the goal is to be able to count to 10, or higher as an extension.  There is no planning, students need to say each number once, and only one student can say a number at a time.  If more than one student says a number, you start back at zero.  They get an absolute kick out of this and no materials are necessary!
  3. Mirrors - This activity is for partners.  One student acts as a mirror while the other partner moves about.  The mirror must reflect their partner's actions as best as they can.  This is all about working well together!
  4. Back to Back - This is another activity geared for partners.  Pair off students into groups that might not typically work together or socialize.  Have the students sit on the floor, back to back with their partners.  Their challenge is to stand up together without using their hands to push off the ground.  This requires a lot of talk about how to best work together to reach the goal.  
  5. The Wind Blows - This community builder will require a little modeling.  Have the class stand in a large circle.  Start in the middle and say the phrase, "The wind blows anyone who..."  This is where things can get a little tricky.  Model picking ideas that will be common among the class.  For example, anyone who likes the color green, went on vacation this summer, prefers math over reading, etc.  After the person in the middle makes the statement, anyone for whom that rings true will need to find a new spot in the circle.  The last one to find a new spot becomes the person in the middle.  This gives students a chance to see commonalities among their classmates.  
I try to use at least two team building activities a week, especially in the first month.  These can easily be a part of morning meeting, or integrated at some point throughout the day for a little extra movement.  

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