Community Builders For Teachers

10 Powerful Community-Building Ideas

Teachers have long recognized that students who feel safe and secure at school are more likely to concentrate their efforts on learning. That is supported by the findings of the research: Teachers who intentionally foster a sense of belonging by greeting each student as they enter the classroom experience “significant improvements in academic engaged time and reductions in disruptive behavior,” according to a 2018 study.

The findings of that study were covered by Edutopia last year, and we’ve shared many other ideas from teachers for ensuring that every student in the classroom feels like they belong.

Some of the activities listed below can be completed in less than five minutes. Although they are divided into grades, many of them apply across all of the years from kindergarten to 12th grade.


This is a quick and easy way for students to recognize and applaud one another for doing a good job or for attempting something challenging. Shout-outs can be incorporated into a class at any point during the session. Valerie Gallagher, a first-grade teacher in Providence, Rhode Island, uses a chime to call the class’s attention when she wants to ask who has received a shout-out from the class.

According to Gallagher, “It’s not just me as the teacher telling them, “You’re doing well,” but it’s also a way for them to interact with one another and celebrate positivity.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by George Lucas.
Friendly Fridays: Elizabeth Peterson, a fourth-grade teacher in Amesbury, Massachusetts, uses Friendly Fridays as a simple way for students to lift each other and to feel better about themselves and their abilities. For example, Peterson has her students write a friendly, anonymous note to a classmate, practice using positive self-talk, or use storytelling to give another classmate some motivation and encouragement

Marissa King, a fifth-grade teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shares two activities that promote kindness with her students. First, the teacher gives students instructions on how to be kind in secret, such as writing an anonymous note to a peer who is having difficulty in one of their classes.

In the second activity, students are encouraged to recognize and express gratitude to others for their acts of kindness. For example, when a student observes a peer tidying up in the classroom, they can post a thank you note on a shared digital “kindness wall.” During both activities, students are encouraged to be kind to their classmates in the hopes that they will begin to practice kindness on their own.


Tweets from the paper world: Jill Fletcher, a seventh-grade teacher at Kapolei Middle School in Kapolei, Hawaii, created a bulletin board modeled after the Twitter platform to foster community in her classroom. A template is used to create profiles, and students must recruit at least three followers—a friend, an acquaintance, and someone with whom they don’t have much interaction.

A Twitter board constructed entirely of paper for use in a middle school classroom.
Photograph courtesy of Jill Fletcher
A mock-up of a Twitter profile for a classroom.
During this activity, which takes about 45 minutes to set up the first time, Fletcher has the students respond to prompts about their current mood or new events in their lives, and then their followers respond to what they have to say.

A set of class norms is developed by Bobby Shaddox, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at King Middle School in Portland, Maine, who asks his students to come up with adjectives that describe them as a community of learners to describe themselves as such. According to Dr. Pamela Cantor, the founder of Turnaround for Children, the practice of allowing students to develop their norms provides “a pathway toward belonging for every single student in that class.”

The words were created collaboratively by Shaddox and his students, rather than being dictated by a teacher from the top down. “It assists us in taking responsibility for our behavior in the classroom.”

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by George Lucas.
Grupo salutes: A brief moment shared between two or more students at the start or end of an activity, a Grupo saluto is a teacher-prompted interaction that is a quick and low-prep way to build community in the classroom. The shared gesture can be physical, such as a high-five, or social, such as when a teacher asks students to express gratitude to their group members, such as when they receive an award.

There is some interesting evidence to support this hypothesis: Specifically, researchers discovered that NBA teams whose players interacted with each other the earliest in the season (through high fives, fist bumps, and so on) had the best records later in the season.


Students in all grades can benefit from morning meetings, which have long been a staple of elementary classrooms. However, students in all grades can benefit from morning meetings. A version of morning meetings is held at every grade level at Riverside School, which is a pre-K to 12th-grade school in Ahmedabad, India, and is described as “pure relationship-building time.” Physical, social, and emotional activities, as well as discussions of sensitive topics such as bullying, are all examples of bonding exercises that can be led by teachers or students.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by George Lucas.
Appreciation, apologies, and aha moments: A quick daily closing activity involves students gathering in a circle and sharing something they appreciate about one of their peers, something they’re sorry for, or something that made them think. Following a brief demonstration, the teacher invites volunteers to speak in response to the activity.

According to Akeem Ballard, an educator with Summit Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, “those types of appreciations and community recognitions can go a long way toward building bonds.”

The George Lucas Educational Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by George Lucas.
For example, when a class begins, the teacher and students take turns sharing one rose (which represents something positive) and one thorn (which represents something negative). It takes approximately five minutes to complete the process.

“‘I’m tired,’ for example, could be a low-stakes thorn. Yet many students choose to share more personal information, such as “My thorn is that my dog has become ill, and I am extremely concerned for her,” writes Alex Shevrin Venet, a former school leader at a trauma-informed high school.

Icebreaker: Students write down one of their stressors on a piece of paper and crumple it up before gathering in a circle to throw their paper balls in what appears to be a mock snowball fight. When that’s done, they pick up a snowball and read it aloud.

“The concept is that we’re on the move. We’re able to have fun, laugh, scream, be loud, and then have that discussion about stress,” says Marcus Moore, an advisory leader at Urban Prep School in Chicago.