Building your classroom community in the first days of school

classroom culture
 first 6 days of school...and we have been working hard to learn some routines, get to know each other, and establish some positive classroom culture "vibes".  I thought I'd share a few snapshots of some of the things we did to build our new community!  

Of course, there were tons of things we did that I haven't included...lots of anchor charts about expectations, shared picture books, body breaks (thanks, GoNoodle!), and more...but each of the things I have pictured did SOMETHING to move us forward in our attempt to build our classroom family. We have started talking at length about "growth mindsets" as well--and a post will be coming soon about that!

The first thing I want to establish early on is collaboration--in my class, we work together ALL THE. TIME.  Asking students just coming off of summer break to work in groups is not always I always start by establishing partnership expectations.  We talk about how to work to invite your partner to to make sure we know how to help and ask for help, and so on.  This simple "making words" activity was a simple way for partners to work together and practice that "give and take".
cooperative learning
Another skill we work on in the first days is learning how to go up to someone and ask a question.  For some more introverted students, this is really challenging so we have a discussion about how we can help shy people feel safe in these situations.  We practice using language that "includes" rather than excludes and also practice asking questions.  This "bingo" type activity helps students practice going up to other students and asking simple questions.  ("Do you have a cat?" "Do you have a brother?") and then when they find a "match", that person colors in the matching shape.  I walked around and coached students who were struggling with the interactions.  
building classroom community
This is a part of a building classroom community resource.  Click HERE to see this one and the other activities included in it.
 Another key part of our first days together is a discussion about work quality.  We worked together to make an anchor chart entitled "What is quality work" where we talked about neat printing and coloring, careful spelling, rereading our work and so on.  To practice, we working on making back to school "pennant glyphs" to display outside our classroom.
community in the classroom
This project is another part of my resource with ideas to build classroom community.  Click HERE to see more.
 Getting to know each other also involves acknowledging our own traits!  One morning's "warm up" activity was called "put yourself on the line".  I do this throughout the year as a way to get students to express their opinions about different topics...they actually line up according to their beliefs.  This activity was a little different in that I put two cards on opposite ends of the line and asked students to stand by one of them--or somewhere in the middle. We did it three times...we put ourselves on the line for the following ideas:

shy ------- outgoing
rarely participate in class ------- participate a lot
leader  --------- follower

We came back together as a class and had a discussion about these ideas--and how they impact learning and how we need to understand and appreciate each other.  We talked about positive leaders and negative leaders.  About ways to participate in class--even when it's hard.  How to help shy students feel more comfortable--and how to not be overbearing if you are outgoing!  I am hopeful that all students have done some thinking about their role in our "family"--and how to make sure they can help others feel valued as well.
classroom community
 Another activity we worked on was jigsaw puzzles...because it gave us a time to practice making "strategy suggestions" and then trying them.  Some groups decided to sort by color, others worked to find all the edge pieces, and so on.  We used this as a time to practice our "helping" stems where we talked about how to offer help, accept help, politely refuse help, and accept help graciously.  We worked cooperatively to put together 10 puzzles!
back to school
 By the fourth day, I felt we might be ready for a big challenge--working as a team to get Chromebooks set up and organized.  I know many teachers get everything all set up ahead of time--but I ask students to figure out how to keep their crates organized and cables clear.  It seems they have more ownership when they put the time in ahead of time instead of me doing it.  It was NOT an easy challenge, but by the time we were finished, all 4 crates were assembled and the "Chromies" were charging so they could be used the next day.  WHEW!
Chromebook organization
 Because I wanted to really set the stage for a year of reading in my class, I had desk groups each take a tour of my classroom library, learn how to care for it, and then browse through my thousands of books and start to generate a list of books they are interested in reading.  Want to see more about how my classroom library is organized?  I have a video tour HERE.  Students got SO excited to see all their options and to grab their first book.  We are off are ready to read now!
reader's workshop
This form is from my "Getting Ready for a Year of Reading" resource.
Next week is our first full week, so we will be really digging into content and more routines--but I definitely feel like we have gotten a great start on our classroom culture and that students can tell that we are going to have a great year.  Thanks for stopping by!  Stay tuned for updates soon!


  1. We did the quality work pennants too! The work since has been great! We also did a non-verbal communication puzzle! It's all about team work! Need to set up more partner/team work expectations!! Some in my class despise it!! We talked about it being a life skill!!

    1. It can be SO hard for some students! Keep pushing it--they'll get better! :)

  2. What do your helpful statements look like?

  3. Your posts are always inspiring and get my cranium wheels in motion. Thanks for sharing your ideas and plethora of knowledge Meg. I so look forward to getting new ideas and tweaking the old ones.