Putting Students in Charge of Building the Classroom Community

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As teachers, we usually go into the first weeks of school assuming full responsibility for building the learning space. But what happens if we put some of that responsibility in our students’ hands instead? Our new students come to us full of ideas, stories, expertise, and curiosity. These are the essential materials for a strong classroom community. Here are a few ideas for how to put those raw materials to use:
  • Creating Class Rules: A Beginning to Creating Community Students work together to create classroom rules by brainstorming why they are at school and what they need while they are there.

  • Our Classroom: Writing an Owner’s Manual Students write an owner’s manual that helps them get to know their classroom, provides them with a sense of ownership, and lets others know about their classroom.

  • Using Children’s Literature to Develop Classroom Community Conversation and cooperation bring out the best in students when they hold dialogues about their individual strengths, abilities, and talents.

  • Opening the Door for Reading: Sharing Favorite Texts to Build Community In this lesson, students build classroom community by exploring environmental print and a teacher-created display that focuses on a favorite book. They then create and share their own presentations.

  • Getting to Know You: Developing Short Biographies to Build Community How well do your students know their peers? Students transform into investigative reporters as they interview a classmate, compile the biographical data into graphic form, and introduce the student to the class.

  • A Getting-Acquainted Activity Using My Teacher’s Secret Life Students build classroom community as they get to know each other and their teacher better by sharing what they like to do outside school. Have you tried these or other community building activities? Tell us what works!

Bonus: Instead of putting up all the bulletin boards yourself – what happens if you give your students ownership over them instead?

Lisa Storm Fink has been the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink at NCTE for over 10 years. After teaching grades K-4 for almost 9 years, she brought her varied experiences (multi-age classrooms, looping, cooperating teacher for preservice teachers, plus a specialization in Remedial Reading) fulltime to the ReadWriteThink site. Lisa feels lucky to have worked on all parts of the ReadWriteThink site: as a writer and reviewer, curriculum developer, and now as Project Manager. She enjoys sharing the site with others during professional development opportunities as well as with her preservice students at the University of Illinois. Lisa also sits on several board and advisory committees. Lisa’s favorite job is as a mom to Kelsey, a high school sophomore active in marching and concert band, JV volleyball, JV softball and Scholastic Bowl; and to Kaitlyn, a 7th grader busy with softball, basketball, volleyball and Student Council.

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