Do you wish your classroom was more like a community?

Building a strong community is something I like to have in my classroom. I have given some suggestions from a PD, PCMI, research, and activities I have done in my own classroom to help give you some ideas of different things you could try in your classroom.

Group work is a great way for students to learn from each other and builds community in the classroom. I will list different types of activities you can use in your classroom to build a strong community.

Let start with quick and easy ways to build a strong classroom community.

  • Plan get-to-know you activities the first week or two of school
  • Work as a class to create classroom norms or expectations
  • Conduct a beginning greeting (should only last a couple of minutes)
  • Random seating – have students sit by different students each week or bi-weekly
  • Have students sit and work in groups, so they can work cooperatively.
  • In groups assign students different jobs and rotate these jobs.
  • Periodically invite students to eat lunch with you.
  • Print off “Math About You” posters (I have attached a copy of the one I use)

In my classroom, I have done many of the ways listed above and they really do help to get students talking to each other and help them feel as a community. I really want to have better systematic random seating and groups. During PCMI Reflection on Practices, we have used random seating by picking a playing card. How this works is the suit of the card tells us where to sit and the number represents the vertical non-permit wall groups we work in; I like this ideas because it it truly random. I am excited to try this and blog later how it works.

Through a previous PD from Dr. Sharroky Hollie and his book Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching and Learning, I have listed his suggestions and activities for building a strong classroom community. I have used some of these in my classroom and they do help build a community in my classroom. I want to incorporate more of them and incorporate things I have learned from PCMI.

Design Culturally Responsive Classroom using these five ways; which helps build a strong community in your classroom.

  1. Know your students well – academically, socially, and emotionally. Learn about their families, culture, and interests. Go to an event (sporting, band concert, choir,etc.) they participate in and cheer them on. You would be surprised how excited they are to see you and it shows them you really care.
  2. No matter the subject matter build on your students’ life experiences – Current or real-world problems helps students make good connections with the curriculum and they will care more about what they are studying.
  3. Create a classroom learning community – Help students feel safe and comfortable in your classroom with not only you but also with their peers.
  4. Have high expectations for all students – Incorporate Growth Mindset and help your students feel competent and developing.
  5. Understand your own culture identity – reflect on how your handle discipline and classroom management. Show our students that you are caring, honest, and human.

Culturally Responsive Classroom Activities

Let Me Hear You – Students actively respond in unison to speaker either verbally or with movement (or both) to either an improvised or pre-taught “call”

Pick-a-stick After the teacher poses a question, students think about the answer silently. After sufficient thought time, the teacher picks from a group of sticks that represent each student.

Roll ‘Em – Students are divided in groups of 4-6. Students think about a posed question as the teacher rolls two number cubes. One number cube represents the table/group number and the other number cube represents the seat number. The student sitting in the seat represented by the rolled number cube answers the question. Rolling of the number cube can continue until a sufficient number of answers are heard.

My Turn, Your Turn – This turn-taking protocol is utilized in several protocols for participation and discussion. It is an explicit way of indicating when “jumping in” is not appropriate and reminds students that their turn to talk and ask questions will follow soon.

Give a Shout Out – Students softly shout out responses all the same time. The teacher can record shout-outs on the board, if appropriate. Posed questions can require either one correct answer or a variety of short answers.

Moment of Silence – This is an explicit time for total silence, including on the part of the teacher.

Train or Pass It On – Students call on one another to answer and/or ask questions. Students should not raise their hands to be called on and should be encourages to call on a variety of people in the classroom. Students can also “pass” on a question they do not want to answer by calling on another student for help. This is called “pass it on,” (they must repeat the answer).

Raise a Righteous Hand – Students raise a hand/fist to volunteer information that is specific to their experiences.

Whip-Around – Each student in the room takes a turn responding with quick answers to a posed question. The order should be based on seating in order for the teacher to avoid having to constantly facilitate the direction of the students answering. This should go very quickly around the room, so the question needs to be appropriately precise as well.

Numbered Heads Together – Students are divided in groups of 4-6 and numbered. When asked a question, they work together to find the best answer. When called together again, the teacher rolls a number cube and asks the students from each group with the number rolled to stand. Each student then represents the group and reports its answer.

Think Pair Share – This involves a three-step cooperative structure. During the first step, students think silently about a question posed by the teacher. Individuals then pair up during the second step and exchange thoughts. In the third step, the pairs share their responses with other pairs or the entire group. It is usually a good idea to have the individuals asked to share with the whole group to explain what their partner said in order to promote good listening skills.

Merry-Go-Round – Each student takes a quick turn sharing with the team a thought or reaction to something posed by the teacher. Responses should be quick 1-5 word phrases in order to keep it going quickly and keep thoughts concise.

Put Your Two Cents In – Each student has two cowry shells in use as talking pieces. In groups of four, each student takes a turn by putting one cowry shell in the center of the table and sharing his or her idea. When everyone has shared once, each student then puts one more cowry shell in at a time and responds to what someone else in the group has shared. (I agree with….. because ……. or I disagree with …… because ….. )

Circle the Sage – The teacher polls the class to see which students have special knowledge to share. Then, those students (the sages) stand and spread out in the room. The teacher then has the rest of the classmates go to one of the sages, with not work members of the same team going to the same ages. The sage explains what he is=or sheknows while the classmates listen, ask questions and take notes. All students then return to their teams. Each in turn explains what he or she learned. Because most have gone to different sages they compare notes. If there is a disagreement, they stand up as a team. Finally the disagreements are aired and resolved.

Give One Get One – After thinking or journaling about a topic, students are asked to get up and find someone across the room with whom to share their thoughts or answers. STudents are thus receiving an idea in exchange for giving one.

Three-Step Interview – Each member of a team chooses another member to be a partner. During the first step, individual interview their partners by asking clarifying or interview question. During the second step, partners reverse the roles. For the final step, members share their partner’s response with the team.

Jigsaw – Groups of 4-5 students are established. Each group member is assigned some unique material to learn and then teach to his or her group members. To help in the learning, students across the class focusing on the same material get together to decide what is important and how to teach it. After practice in these “expert” groups, the original groups reform and students teach one another. Tests or assessments can follow.

Team-Pair-Solo – Students do problems first as a team, then with a partner, and finally on their own.

Partners – The class is divided into teams of four. Half of each team is given an assignment to master to be able to teach the other half. Partners studying the same material go to one side of the room and consult with one another about the material and how to best teach it to the other half of their team. Teams then go back together, with each set of partners teaching the other set. Partners quiz and tutor their teammates. The team reviews how will they learned and taught and how they might improve the process.

Corners – Each student moves to a corner of the room that represents a teacher-determined alternative or point on a scale. Students discuss their choices in their own corner and then listen to and paraphrase or debate ideas and opinions from other corners.

Send-a-Problem – Each student writes a review problem on a flash card and asks teammates to answer or solve it. Review questions are passed to another group to be answered.

Silent Appointment – After the teacher poses a problem/question to be discussed, students make “silent appointments” with each other by making eye contact and nodding to indicate that an appointment has been made. Students then go to their appointments and share. The teacher should then review with the whole class by asking what students heard that was shared by others.

Musical Share – This is similar to Give One, Get One. The teacher poses a question and turns on music. Students move/dance around the classroom until the music is turned off. Students discuss the question with whomever they are closest to when the music is turned off. The teacher resumes music and the process continues until they have had enough opportunities to share.

Roundtable – Each team uses a single sheet of paper and pencil and, in turn, responds to a question or problem by stating their ideas aloud as they write them on the paper. The paper is then passed around the table until time is called. Team members are encouraged not to skip turns, but if their thoughts are at a standstill, they are allowed to say “Pass” rather than turn the brainstorm into a brain drizzle. Thus, there is almost universal participation in Roundtable.

Inner-Outer Circle – There should be two circles, with the outer-circle students facing inward and the inner circle students facing outwards. Students in the outer circle begin by asking the student facing them on the inner circle a question. The questions may be prepared by either the students themselves or the teacher. Once the inner-circle student has had an opportunity to answer, either the outer or inner circle rotates and the process is repeated until a full rotation is made. Then, the inner circle has the opportunity to ask questions as the outer circle responds, and so forth.

Round-Robin Brainstorming – One person in each team is appointed as the recorder. An open-ended question is posed and students are given time to think about answers. After the think time, members of the team share responses with one another round-robin style. the recorder writes down the answers of the group members. The person next to the recorder starts, and each person in the group gives an answer in order until time is called. A person may “pass” if needed, and provide input on the next rotation after he or she has had time to think.

Great and Respond/Tea Party – Provide each student with an unfinished sentence, question, or prompt to which a response can be made> As the teacher calls out or displays particular settings/situations, students walk around and use appropriate greetings to greet each other, read their prompts, and respond to each other in turn.

If you have used any of these or want to add anything you have used to build a strong community in your classroom; please comment.



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