Classroom Community

How to Build Transformed Classroom Communities in 3 Easy Steps

alt="group of 5 children at their desks in the classroom looking at the camera and smiling with the caption 'How to Build Transformed Classroom communities" as the tiel of a blog post."

Classroom communities are everywhere! Literally everywhere, but not all classroom communities are the same.

A healthy classroom community is a group of adults and children who come together to learn and grow. With adult guidance, this group has decided together how they want to treat each other, and within that decision each individual has roles.  

In this community, there is an expectation that everyone will feel a sense of kinship or relationship with everyone else in the class.

Of course, degrees of connection will be different, but everyone is expected to interact with everyone else in a respectful, kind, caring and helpful way. 

Every voice matters, and everyone helps each other out to the best of their ability.

A healthy classroom community is a transformative place where everyone feels physically and emotionally safe.

This type of classroom community has a tremendous positive impact on classroom management.

alt="birds eye view of teacher and 8 young children gathered around a small table working with alphabet cards, and a caption that reads 'students need to feel physically and emotionally safe' as a baseline definition of healthy classroom communities."
Classroom communities are the cornerstone of everything that you want to achieve in the classroom.

Healthy Classroom Communities

Standing in the middle of the classroom I looked around. It was noisy, messy, and busy as most healthy classroom communities are.

This organized chaos was my favourite way to teach, and I knew it was only possible because we, had intentionally built healthy and appropriate boundaries all year long.

We were making kelp, so that we could hang it from the ceiling to create a seal garden as a part of our study of other cultures. Everyone had been given instructions and assigned a  random partner. 

Of course, in my class, everyone still preferred to work with their bestie, but they kindly and respectfully worked with everyone.  🥰

Only once had I ever seen a student directly show disappointment at the random partner that had been assigned. The child who registered negative feelings was new to our class, and he only did it that one time. 

He looked around the classroom, and he realized that this was not the way our class worked.  No one had said anything, but he could just tell he was wrong. 

He had been bullied at his prior school, and when he realized he was safe he blossomed.  Now he knew what a healthy and safe community looked like. 

He became safe to work with too.

alt="Group of 4 children playing with various traffic signs and a traffic light, and the caption, 'healthy community changes us' to emphasize the importance of developing healthy classroom communities.'
The classroom communities we build can immerse a troubled child in a safe environment for
the first time, and, by doing that, the classroom community can change the child.

1) Choose Strategies for Building Classroom Community

IMHO, building classroom community is one of the best, if not the actual best, part of teaching. I mean, I have great fun teaching various subjects, but I love to facilitate student collaboration and interactions.

There are a few basics to establishing a vibrant classroom community.

  • It starts with you! – Create a warm and welcoming environment.  Greet them, get to know them each, and listen with interest to what they are excited to share with you.
  • Building classroom expectations together, and referring back to it
  • Give them time to interact with each other. My kiddos had both class time and free time every single day where they were interacting with each other.
  • Get them collaborating. This doesn’t have to be big projects, and it doesn’t have to be about academics. A broom and dustpan require collaboration.
  • Give them a chance to be heard.  My kiddos once told me that they preferred it when I put up the shape of the day at carpet time.  No problem! One less job for me to remember after school! 
  • Embrace diversity by finding a way to celebrate everyone’s differences. 
  • Promote leadership.  Help them to help each other. Everyone has something to offer. This could be as simple as being in charge of organizing chair stacking. 
  • Incorporate peer support where they can work together, learn from each other, and learn to be helped by others.
alt="a schoolyard background on which a list of 9 'Do's' for creating classroom communities is displayed. Do: create a friendly environment, build classroom expectations together, give them time to hang out together, create opportunities for collaboration, make certain they have input, embrace diversity, promote leadership, incorporate peer support."
These simple strategies that you can tailor to your classroom and interests
are a pillar of building successful classroom management.

2) Decide Upon Activities to Build Classroom Community

There are so many great activities for building a classroom community, but, of course, I have my favourites.

The following are just a few, they are all class favourites, and most of them happened every day or multiple times a week. The beauty is that many of these activities also support differentiation.

As you can see, classroom community-building activities are easily incorporated into the schedule and content. I recognize the concern over transitioning in many classes, but as you practice, the transitioning improves.

alt="a group of 2 boys and two girls working together at a rectangular table, and the caption 'provide opportunities for interaction' to identify the importance of interaction and collaboration for building healthy classroom communities"
Sometimes teachers are terrified of managing off task behaviour that can happen during collaboration. Strategies and activities alone are not enough to build a successful classroom community. How you implement them is key to success.

3) How to Build Classroom Community Through Implementation

I know that teachers worry about transitions. I will address that by saying to you that there are research-based ways to manage the classroom to create success.  

Once you have the strategies and classroom community activities, you need the steps to implementation. Here are my nine steps for managing transitions and building a classroom community:

  • Classroom expectations that have been developed together, posted, reviewed, taught, connected to, celebrated, and referred back to.
  • Instruction – make sure the students know what the activity requires.
  • Be organized – nothing creates chaos like free time waiting for the teacher.
  • Choices – Let students know that at the first sign of off-task behaviour, you will understand that they are making the choice to do the alternate activity. Then carry through.
  • Carry through quietly, with a smile, love and grace.
  • While the group is working be present, listen in, and verbally affirm with specific feedback.
  • When they are all cleaned up tell them how well they did.
  • Follow up with a much quieter and more focused activity.  They will need it. Developmentally they may no longer be able to make appropriate choices in a more dysregulated environment.
  • When you try again the next day, tell them how much better they did.
alt="a blonde teacher standing in fron of a green chalkboard with  '1. Colour, 2. Cut, 3. Build puzzle' written on it, and underneath the caption 'ensure students understand their job' as a key piece of smooth transitions, effective collaboration and classroom management in the process of building classroom communities."
If a student is not clear on their task they can’t possibly succeed at it. Not all children have the developmental attention spans or enough memory to retain verbal instructions. Ensuring adequate and proper communication is a core piece of successful implementation of classroom community building activities.

Classroom Communities as Your Secret to Success

I am not going to say that by building your classroom community there will never be any behaviour problems ever again.  This just isn’t true.  

However, almost every child is likely to behave better when they feel safe and secure.  The truth is that classroom community, and the well-regulated hum of positive behaviour that it supports, means that while every other child is actively engaged and learning you will have more freedom to address the little rascal who is off task. 

Maybe that little rascal 😇needs you to do that activity one-on-one together, or maybe they need your support at their small group, and now you have the ability to offer it to them while everyone else is engaged. 

Building classroom communities made everything possible for the classroom that I envisaged. The community that was created allowed me to become the teacher I had dreamt of being.  I pray it does the same thing for you.

alt="a young female teacher in a hijab working beside a young girl in a hijab with another girl in the background, and the caption 'Your secret to success!' underscoring the importance of building classroom communities to overall success as a teacher.
The goal of building classroom communities is that they will learn to care for others because they want to. When they treat each other well in your absence you will know that your success is real.

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