By Teachers, For Teachers
Building a sense of community within your classroom helps to create a strong bond between students. As relationships are built, an optimal learning environment is made. Teachers have long known that when you build a sense of community, it creates a safe and secure atmosphere for students: A place where they feel welcome and can focus their energy on learning. One way to ensure students feel a sense of community is through classroom activities. Many of these “Team building” classroom activities are done in the beginning of the school but are never continued. Here are a few classroom activities to ensure that every student (no matter the grade) feels a sense of community.
Throughout the school year, pair students together to learn a little bit more about one another. Every few weeks, randomly pair students together to create a Venn diagram about their similarities and differences. Have students draw a Venn diagram (two overlapping circles) and write down a few facts about themselves, then share them with their partner. When pairs have finished, ask them to share a few things that they had learned about their partners both what they had in common, as well as what they did not.
The popular children’s game “Never Have I Ever” can be a great community builder for your classroom. To play, have students sit either at their desks or at your meeting place. Then give each student a sign that says, “I have” on one side and “I have not” on the other. Go around the classroom and have students say the phrase “Never have I ever …” then fill in the blank with their answer. For example, a student might say, “Never have I ever drank purple soda.” Every student would then hold up a sign that said they had or they hadn’t. The game continues with students making “Never have I ever” statements until everyone has had a turn. It’s a fun community-building classroom activity for students of all ages. Just make sure that you talk about what types of statements are appropriate and what are not for the classroom.
Another popular game to play is when students take turns talking about what was the best part of their day and what was the worst part of their day. This classroom activity has many names: Rose and Thorn, Peak and Peeve, etc. The point of the game is to tell one highlight and one low point. The whole game is quite quick and can be done while students are packing up to go or waiting in line to go home. It’s a great bonding activity, because students don’t have to talk about anything too personal, but they do get the chance to share and be heard. It’s a great way for students to learn more about their classmates’ feelings, which is a great way to bond.
An interactive community bonding game that your students will love at any age is to play the game “This or That.” To play, have students sit along the edge of the carpet or gather wherever your meeting area is. Place a long piece of tape to separate two distinct sections of your space. To begin, pose a question that can have two possible answers. For example, you can say “Do you like pizza or pasta?” or “Would you rather go to Hawaii or the Mexico?” Next, students move to either section of the line to show which one they prefer. Once all students have decided and are in their spot, allow them to talk about their choice amongst the group for a few minutes before you ask another question. This is a fun type of “Mingling” game that will help students learn more about their classmates’ preferences.
Students love social media, so what’s not to love about sharing your thoughts via a tweet? For this community-building classroom activity, students must develop a tweet using 140 characters or less. Then find two other students to reply to their tweet. The key is that students must ask one student who they normally don’t interact with on a daily basis to reply. This is a great way for students to branch out from their normal social circle and learn more about their other classmates.
Morning meetings have been a staple in many classrooms, but did you know that you can use them for all ages? Get your middle and high school students up off their feet with a few bonding exercises. Any of the ideas mentioned above can be used in a morning meeting. And, the great thing about these classroom activities is that they are quick so you can get back to whatever you usually do in the morning.
Remember, it’s ultimately up to you, the teacher, to create a loving and nurturing classroom environment where your students feel safe and comfortable to learn. Through classroom activities like the ones mentioned above, you will help to ensure all students all feel like they belong.
What classroom activities do you use to build a sense of community in your classroom? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Please leave your ideas in the comment section below, we would love to hear from you on this topic
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.