Classroom community and culture matters more than ever for kids and educators alike. Now that students have (finally) returned to a consistent schedule, many teachers are realizing just how much young people have missed the community aspect of school.
In the education world, phrases like “building relationships” and “classroom culture” are thrown around a lot. But they entail so much more than just buzzwords or the occasional team-building activity.
So, how (and when) does that happen?
It can be surprisingly easy to let classroom community building fall to the wayside. When is there time for this? With standardized testing, parent teacher conferences, regular progress reports, and the many other items on teachers’ to-do lists, it’s easy to see how this aspect of the classroom routine could slip.
Like many important aspects of a positive learning environment, building these elements into a day-to-day classroom routine takes time, practice, and effort both from students and teachers. It’s helpful to think of cultivating great classroom culture as an investment: trust us, it’s an investment that can really pay off!
Benefits of Building Classroom Community & Culture
Learning shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. The more positive, supportive, and encouraging the learning environment, the more likely students are to give their best effort, grow, and enjoy participating in school every day. Other benefits of strong classroom community include:
Students are more likely to ask for help when they need it
Trust is crucial to a strong classroom environment. By encouraging students to trust their classmates and their teachers, educators ensure that kids feel comfortable asking questions, including when they need clarification or assistance.
Read more about how to ask your teacher for help.
Students are more open to learning from mistakes
If students don’t trust each other or perhaps they’re intimidated by their teacher, failure is scary. Concern for appearing foolish can easily eclipse the courage it takes to grow. In a thriving classroom community, though, students can feel more comfortable learning from their mistakes as well as their successes.
Kids can develop social and emotional skills
Collaboration won’t appear on standardized state testing, but it is undeniably a real-world skill that kids can develop in the classroom. Classroom communities flourish when kids have the opportunity to work in teams, lead, and design their own projects (more on this later).
Class becomes more fun!
That’s right, and it’s not to be overlooked. Kids and educators spend a lot of time in school, whether that’s in-person or online or a hybrid model; so how kids learn matters just as much as what they learn. Fun should absolutely be a factor in how that happens.
6 Ways to Build Community in the Classroom
So, how do you get all of these wonderful benefits? Here are six methods for building a thriving classroom community at any grade level.
Make time for icebreakers and getting to know you activities year-round
The start of a school year seems like a great time to do icebreakers, and it is! But it’s not the only time to do them in class. In fact, icebreakers and other activities can lose their impact if they only appear at the start of the school year. So, make time for them year-round, and kids can continue learning about each other, taking brain breaks, and having well-deserved fun.
Read more: this list of icebreaker activities for kids and teens will help you come up with ideas!
Implement student-led classroom activities
Sitting and listening gets old fast. By mixing things up, kids will enjoy their time in class more as they step into leadership roles and teach their peers. From student-led discussions, presentations, and games to allowing students to occasionally choose the topics they explore and design their own projects, there are numerous ways to encourage student leadership as they learn.
Incorporate kids’ interests in lessons
This is a great use for all of the information from those wonderful icebreakers and getting to know you activities. If your students love sports or video games, for instance, teachers would benefit from finding connections they can make in class. This could be with math word problems and statistical analysis, in-class debates and discussions, and many more ways to make kids feel valued and seen during class.
Encourage ongoing goal-setting and reflection
Not only do studies show that sharing goals with others increases odds of success, building this habit teaches students a lifelong skill. So, by incorporating regular goal-setting, kids can see their classmates as collaborators and cheerleaders. And that’s the mindset that will help the classroom community grow.
Read more: get goal-setting strategies and tools here!
Incorporate classroom surveys and polls
Wondering what sort of warm up to do? Why not let students choose from time to time?
Often, students feel that their opinions aren’t heard, and by using in-person or online polls and surveys, that dynamic can change for the better. These edtech tools offer easy ways to gather students’ ideas and share them with their peers.
Check on how things are going
It’s common sense: how kids are doing outside the classroom will impact how they’re doing in school. However, common sense does not necessarily translate to common practice. And in order to foster a strong classroom community, teachers should check in regularly with what’s going on in their students’ lives.
Learn and grow together!
Encouraging young people to grow as individuals, not just as students, is fundamental to a high quality learning environment. Here are a few more ideas for how to build a fun and encouraging classroom community: