Building Community in the Classroom – The Key is Communication
Make building classroom community through discussion a focus.
This is the year to start building classroom community through discussion.
As you think about the daily flow of life in the classroom, consider some of these questions:
- Do my students feel engaged in their learning?
- Do they feel connected and comfortable in the place that they learn?
- Are they ready to share their ideas, make mistakes, receive feedback, and learn from their peers?
If you’re uncertain of the answer to even one of these questions, then there’s room to improve your classroom community.
What does classroom community really mean?
Classroom community is an environment where students feel like they’re a part of something bigger than the classroom. They feel safe and comfortable with their teacher and classmates, and they’re ready to actively take part in classroom learning activities with their peers. This can take the form of:
- Following student and or classroom built community guidelines
- Collective ownership
- Feeling connected to their teacher and peers
Why is it important?
Classroom community is the basis of trust within a school and the classroom. A school or classroom that has a culture of community helps to make students comfortable with their teachers and their classmates, and supports them in speaking openly, exploring new ideas together, and trusting and respecting their peers and their teacher.
In short, building community in the classroom creates a happier and healthier environment where everyone knows that they belong and that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. It gives students a sense of ownership, and makes them responsible for their actions in an active way.
Building community also makes class participation a much easier process, even for students who may be on the quieter side. When all students are engaged and invested in their community it enhances the learning process, making it more fun and productive.
If you’re ready to start building community in the classroom here are some collaborative strategies that will help support you in making the change.
Building community in the classroom.
Create a welcoming environment
There are lots of things you can do to make sure your classroom is welcoming, whether it’s greetings at the classroom door, seating arrangements, or colourful posters. They all help to foster community in the classroom.
But the most important thing that every student must know and acknowledge is that everyone is on the same team and that everyone is in it together.
The learning process can seem tough, but when everyone knows they’re on the same team, and they’re in it together, they know that they can rely on each other, collaborate to succeed and work to grow and learn.
Take 10 minutes to be present
It’s as simple as that. Take 10 minutes to collect, connect and reflect.
- Have everyone collect their thoughts with some moments of silence, or quiet journaling.
- Then it’s time to connect, as a class, with a partner, or a group, share with one another.
- Reflect on how your feeling, what the day has to offer, whatever is on your mind.
You can do all of these, or just one. As long as there is some time for students and also yourself to be present with one another, it will help to set intentions for the day and welcome everyone to the learning day.
Listening, listening, listening, encourage listening
Teaching students how to actively listen will change the dynamic of how communication happens within the classroom, and will make everyone feel heard. Feeling heard quickly builds community in the classroom, preparing students to be more open and empathetic towards others.
Encourage students to listen to their classmates ideas and perspectives, even when they don’t agree with them. They can always learn something new and gain new insights which will help them to understand one another.
Classroom discussions are a great way to practice this skill.
Teach students to support their peers by having them encourage each other to participate.
This is peer support at its finest. When students encourage one another they feel supported and comfortable. Whether the students are close or not, support is always appreciated and builds camaraderie between students.
Give them a voice and choice
When students are given an opportunity to have a hand in determining their learning, whether it’s the environment, picking the structure of their day, or something simple, like choosing the discussion topic, students feel a sense of ownership. This feeling extends to their education and makes them active learners driven to make what they chose work.
Our Guide to Discussions is a great place to start learning how you can give your students a voice in your classroom through discussions.
Open and constructive feedback
Feedback can be tough for students, they’re uncertain of how to be constructive without being harsh with their peers. But there are simple ways to model it for students.
To start, remind them to build on their peers ideas. You can do this by giving them fill-in-the-blank questions to get them started:
- What did you find interesting or compelling about this submission?
- Do you agree or disagree with their solution to how the resource is managed? Why or why not?
- Can you build on their ideas?
When students learn how to give and accept each other’s constructive feedback, they start feeling a sense of trust and like they’re all in the learning process together. Trust is an integral component of building classroom community.
Still wondering the best way to get started? We have ready-made discussion topics in the Parlay Universe that can get the conversation started with your class.
Above all, we need to model the behaviour we want to see.
Building community in the classroom can be tough, but so rewarding. When your students start to work together in a cohesive and respectful environment you’ll know you’ve done it, because you’ll see it in all interactions; and the benefits are plenty.
Community in the classroom will create a culture of shared ownership between yourself and your students. Students will feel:
- included and appreciated by their peers in their community,
- respected for who they are as an individual,
- ready to be actively involved and share their ideas, and
- dedicated to the common good of the classroom, their peers and their teacher.
Most importantly make sure that you take care of yourself. Your part of the community and your students will be looking to you for guidance on this journey. Model the behaviours that you’d like to see from your students. Make sure to listen to your students, take time to be present with them, create space for constructive feedback loops, give them opportunities to share and provide guidance that creates an example of positive behaviour and openness.
If you’d like somewhere to start, read and download our Student ‘Textbook.’ It has really helpful tips that will get your students ready for discussions with important rules. Use them as the standard for all class discussions, or make them a starting place and allow your students to build from them.