There are many things to consider about your room as a classroom community. Here are some tips to build a strong classroom community for the beginning of the year.
Make Your Classroom Community Inviting
Your classroom does NOT need to be “Pinterest-worthy” for your students to feel welcome. But if you want to deck your room out in a theme, YOU DO YOU! By inviting, I mean turning your room into a place where students feel they belong. That they’re already part of your classroom community. Are their names on the bulletin board in the hall? Is there a welcome message on the board? Think about the extra personal touches that you can do for your kiddos. You’ll want them to think, “My teacher is glad that I am here.”
Send postcards home.
If you are fortunate enough to have your class list before the start of school, send postcards to your students welcoming them to your classroom community. It might be time-consuming, but it means so much to parents and students. My oldest son is turning twenty this year. (Yikes!) I think we still have the postcard that his kindergarten teacher sent to our house. It was such a treat to show Alex that he received REAL mail.
If you’re not going to receive your class list well before the beginning of the school year, wait until the dust settles (you know what I mean) and send postcards a few weeks after the start of school. Tell your students how glad you are that they are in your classroom community.
Create A Classroom Community With A Seesaw Blog
Start a classroom blog! Especially if you need to practice social distancing. On the Seesaw Class App, they have a blog that you can use to share your student’s work. Think of it as an online classroom journal.
I always use this scavenger hunt to teach my students how to use the Seesaw Class App. I found that Seesaw was amazing to use in my classroom or during virtual learning, but teaching my students how to use the Seesaw tools was a hot mess. So I made it into a game. Now, I use a Scavenger Hunt for my students to teach them how to use the Seesaw Class app responsibly. I have so much luck with this year after year and I am giving you my Seesaw Scavenger Hunt for FREE!
Introduce Yourself On The First Day.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but on the first day of school, my nerves are jumping and I’m already going a million miles an hour. In my very first year of teaching (in the stone age) I forgot to introduce myself to my students. My name was “Teacher” until June.
Now, the first thing I tell them is “My name is Mrs. Hull, and I am your first-grade teacher. I am going to learn a lot about you this year and I want you to know some things about me. I have been teaching for a very long time, TWENTY-TWO years! My husband’s name is Mr. Eric and we have six kids and a dog named Mollie. My favorite snack is popcorn, and I once got to pet a shark in the ocean!”
Making sure to tell them about yourself at the start of school helps them build that relationship with you. They want to know all about you. If you’re forgetful like me, write “INTRODUCTIONS” on a sticky note so you remember this important part about building a classroom community.
Easy icebreaker games for kids are also fun to get to know each other. Here are some quick icebreaker games for students to play at the start of school.
Teach Classroom Procedures And Routines
Before your students arrive, write out where you wish them to put their backpack, where to store their supplies, and where to turn in notes from home. These classroom procedures are important to teach on the first day so they feel like your room is their home.
Here are some other things to consider when you’re building your classroom procedures and routines:
- Where do you want them to keep their backpacks?
- Where will you keep their supplies?
- What are your bathroom rules?
- Are they allowed to come to your desk?
- Do you teach signals to ask for help?
These are important classroom procedures that you’ll need for your classroom community. They’re important to begin teaching on the first day of school. Pick ONE thing that is important for your classroom routines and procedures and start there. You’ll be teaching classroom routines all year long, but it’s important to start strong on the first day, rather than trying to reteach a habit. One year I forgot to teach them how I wanted them to come to the carpet from their desks. It was chaos all year long. But let’s not talk about that!
Create Classroom Rules Together.
Creating classroom rules together gives your students ownership and responsibility. And it actually is possible for your younger kiddos to come up with rules. Asking leading questions to your students helps. For example, I want my students to raise their hands when they have a question. Instead of telling them what my rule is, I’ll ask, “What would happen in our classroom if everyone asked a question at the same time?” This conversation gives them ownership of their own rules. Teacher-led rules aren’t going to be as meaningful.
I hope these tips for building a classroom community will help the beginning of the year run smoothly!