5 Ways to Build Classroom Community in the New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! Do you celebrate the new year with your kiddos?  I'm teaming up with a bunch of my second grade friends to bring you some great ideas to start out the new year.

Christmas break can feel like a loooong time to be away from the classroom, whether it's a full two weeks off, or just ten days -  like I had!This is the perfect time of time of year to re-establish those connections you had with your students - and that they had with each other. It's also a great chance for you to try out some new (and easy!) ways to build an even stronger classroom community. Here are 5 simple ways to build classroom community in the new year.

Greet every student at the door.
You can do this whether your students arrive a few at a time, or all at once. A cheery "Good morning" and a smile can change the way a student's day has started. Use those few seconds to say hello, give a high five, ask about their morning or previous night. It's a great way to take the pulse of each student's morning, and allows you to catch any issues that might need to be taken care of before the day starts. Greeting students at the door, (I like to do it outside the classroom as they come down the hallway) sets a positive tone for the day and lets students know they are welcome and loved.

Change up your "sharing" routine - or start one!
I'll be honest. I used to think that "sharing" was not worth the time. The last thing I wanted to do was spend 10 minutes (or more!) of my day watching students do the "bring and brag" thing. And you know what? That kind of sharing really doesn't build community if it's done all the time. I allowed my students to choose whatever they wanted to share at the beginning of the year. Some chose to bring something in, others chose to share about something that happened, somewhere they went, etc. This definitely gave me an idea of what each student liked, what they were interested in, etc. But I wanted to find out more. So I started a monthly topic for sharing. In November, we shared things about our family, traditions we had and how we celebrated holidays. December was all about looking back at the year - accomplishments (sports, clubs, school and life!), fun places people went, and how we've grown. These sharing topics really gave me great insight on my students' lives outside of school and we all learned about each other. Knowing your students OUTSIDE of school is another important way to build community.

Have breakfast together! (or snack, or lunch, or a treat!)
Think about it. How nice is it when your entire family is home together and enjoying each other around the dinner table? I know it's harder and harder to make that happen these days, but the sense of community that comes from everyone together in a relaxed environment cannot be denied. I do this 3 times a year with my students - once in mid-October when we've gotten routines established and that connectedness if starting to come together; again in January when we comeback from break, and once more at the end of the year. Bring in a few boxes of cereal and some milk (have parents donate if you want!) and have breakfast together in the classroom or cafeteria! Talk about anything that comes up and just ENJOY being with each other. Can't bring breakfast in? If you have a breakfast program at school, you might be able to have everyone come down at one time and get/eat breakfast together. If breakfast isn't an option, eat lunch together, or snack. The idea is to do it TOGETHER in a different way than usual.

Read aloud every day
How many times a day do you read a book aloud, just for enjoyment? If it's not at least once a day, then this is the time to start! I'm not talking about actual reading instruction, or chapter books you read together after recess (which are, by the way, a GREAT way to build community!) I'm talking about reading JUST. FOR. FUN. I keep a pile of books by my rocking chair that I enjoy reading. They don't always go with the topic we're learning about, or even the season! But they're fun to read and I like the story. I pull from that basket at least once a day when we have a few minutes before specials or lunch (ever read to kids while they're in line?), when an activity finishes early, etc. But the best part of the read-alouds has been getting my students involved. Some like to choose the book from the basket. Others have books in the classroom they enjoy - or bring from home. And others like to READ to the class. We started reading a book everyday while waiting for buses to be called. It ended the day on a quiet note and allowed for more discussion, and sometimes silliness - which is ok! - than during the regular school day. And that brigs me to number five on my list.

Don't be afraid to laugh and be silly
I think we as teachers often feel we have to be in complete control all the time - and that control means no laughing and fooling around. But we are missing out if we think that way. Kids love to laugh. Silly is their middle name. Do something unexpected and don't worry is they class erupts into laughter and everyone next door and down the hallway will hear and wonder what in the world is going on in that classroom. Who cares! What's going on is you and your students are having fun and sharing a moment together. I'm not suggesting getting out of control, but life is more fun when you laugh. Wear a silly hat when you're reading, crack a joke in the middle of the math lesson, laugh at what your students think is funny. By letting down your guard just a little and allowing students to see you as a real person who they can relate to, you're building the most important connections and community that you possibly can.

Are you ready to go back to school in 2016 and build an even stronger classroom community? Help your students reconnect with each other and start the new year off right! If you're looking for ideas n how to start, run or energize your morning meeting, you can check out my posts {HERE} and {HERE.} I'd love to hear other simple ways that you use to build community in your classroom. Share in the comments!

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  1. Thanks for linking up with us this month! This is a great post for this time of year. I know it will help so many teachers as they go back to the classroom after the winter break!

  2. You have some really great ideas here! Thanks.

  3. Love your ideas!! Thank you

  4. Love these ideas! It's so important to have a strong sense of community in the classroom.


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