Last month, we asked our social media followers to share their tips for building community at the beginning of the school year. Here are some of our favorite responses, along with resources to help you act on their advice.
Buddies! We have whole school buddies and do a fun activity for them to meet their buddy. One year, we ripped playing cards in half and they had to find the other half of their card. They keep the same buddy all year, making birthday cards for each other, sitting together at our Thanksgiving feast, and more. Much time is put into pairing them up.
Looking for more great ideas to create pairings and small groups? Here are three fun options:
Nonverbal Lineup: Students line up by height, birthday (month and day), or house/apartment number, smallest to largest, but they do so without talking. Instead, they use gestures and signals, such as a show of fingers. Then, they pair up with the person standing next to them in line or form small groups by breaking the line into segments.
Clock Partners: Each student has a sheet with a clock face. Students mingle to find a partner
for each item (“Will you be my three o’clock partner?”) and write each classmate’s name next
to the item. Students keep the filled-in sheets as a reminder of who their partners are, and
then you can simply say, “Find your nine o’clock partner.” You can create new partner sheets
routinely to give students a chance to work with new partners. Download a sample Clock
Partners sheet here.
Barnyard Bedlam: Write the names of four barnyard animals on slips of paper (one animal per slip) and give each child one slip of paper. Students mix and mingle while making the sound of their animal and listening for others making the same sound. When they find other matching
animals, they stand together until all groups are formed.
Building relationships with parents and families really helps me foster community in the classroom. They know the kids best and are a wealth of information on the unique SEL goals I will need to pursue for the year ahead.
Providing numerous opportunities to learn about each other and our families. Welcome phone calls, “meet the teacher morning” before the first day, and my favorite read-aloud Whose Garden Is It? by Mary Ann Hoberman.
How do you build connections with families at the start of the school year? Download a copy
of the Connecting With Families graphic organizer to think about forms of communication with families that you would like to add to your practice, and then use this Family Letter Planning Guide to support your first communication with families.
Definitely the Morning Meeting. All members of the classroom community—students, teacher, educational assistants, early childhood educators, volunteers, and placement students—need an opportunity to get to know one another. The better we know people, the better we treat them!
Ready to get started with Morning Meeting? Download these daily or weekly planning guides to help you plan ahead! For more ideas about meetings to start off the school year, check out our free resources The First 10 Days of Morning Meeting (K–6) and The First 10 Days of Responsive Advisory Meeting (6–8). Created as COVID-19 resources, these publications have step-by-step ideas for ten days’ worth of in-person and virtual meetings at each grade level from kindergarten through eighth grade.
I love doing “take one step into the middle of the circle.” Students make a circle and face
OUT. I read off a statement and they take one step backward into the middle if it applies
to them. Then they turn around to see who is just like them.
I do a “get to know you” bingo, where they go around the class and find out things about
other people, then check them off a page. Then we share one new thing we learned about
someone else, like “Who has older siblings?” or “Who has been to New Hampshire?”