There is a MUST-DO activity that I begin on the first day of school. Once begun and continued, it changes the entire classroom being. Students want to come to class. Students know they belong. Students are engaged. It's simple really. Building a classroom community. Building a place where students know each other's names. Know how their classmates spend their free time. Know that in this classroom all students are welcome regardless of skill level, intelligence, abilities, disabilities, athletic prowess, musical talents, skin tone, hair texture, the list goes on.
Simple, that is, if you begin on day one. Simple, if you know building a classroom community is as important as tackling learning objectives. Simple, if you consistently build that community during the first 4-8 weeks of school and then maintain it thereafter. When you and your students are a community, the magic unfolds.
Many gurus write on the topic of classroom communities, but Laurie Frank is an all-star, in my book. Her book, Journey Toward Caring Classrooms, is filled with research and gems for this must-do activity. Activity might be too small of a word. Let's call community building a movement.
If you want to preview the book before buying or scouting it at your public library, check out the free e-book version on Google books. Laurie covers everything from active listening, to cooperation, to acquaintance activities, you name it. It is everything you need to know to get started with classroom community building in one book.
Awesome. Super awesome.