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Educators talk about engaging communities

“I have my students interview their classmates to help build a community of learners. I paired students together and had them ask each other questions about their family, interests, pets, favorite music, etc. Then each set of partners presented a few of the most important pieces of information they learned about their partner to the whole class. This was very successful because I was able to see a face with a name and students were able to get to know each other too.”

--Margaret Pruente – High school Spanish teacher

“At the beginning of the year we would work on several community-building activities during our morning meeting. These activities included name games and team work activities, read alouds that focused on building communities, and we wrote a classroom community plan. With our community plan we charted characteristics of cooperative and uncooperative classrooms. Then, we wrote down an agreement of what our classroom should look like and we all signed the plan.  All of these activities were very successful in helping to build a community of learners.”

–-Kendra Slotten – 5th- and 2nd-grade teacher     

“To successfully build my classroom community I start off the year with actually teaching lessons, administering assessments, and giving homework. It was not successful to play get-to-know-you games or to have extensive discussions about procedures, classroom set-up and expectations. I found that it is best to introduce these classroom norms slowly.”

--Sarah Wagman – 7th-, 5th-, and 4th-grade teacher

“During the start of the school year we do a lot of sharing and then making connections with each other (i.e. Do you have any pets?  What is your favorite book? Etc.). Then my students begin to open up to each other more because they find that they have many similarities. I make sure that I have a variety of activities for the first weeks of school. I try and remember to be sensitive to my students' needs because there are kids who are scared to come to school. I found that it is very successful to separate friends, partner high/low kids, design a particular center based on students interests, and have each student teach the class something that they are an expert on.”

–-Stephanie Horwath – 1st-grade teacher         

“At the beginning of the year I read my student books on friendship and community issues. We talk about bullying, what it is and how we can create a bully-free classroom. We do lots of community-building activities so we can all get to know each other. Next year, I would like to have an assembly or have a speaker come in and discuss the importance of community and friendship.”

--Sara Boll –1st-grade teacher