Time-Tested Activities to Build Community in Elementary School
When I first started teaching, one of the first things I taught was the necessity of building relationships with students. The process of getting to know the children and their families, as well as their cultures, interests, and issues, helps to establish a bond, and the pupils recognise that their instructor is concerned about them. As a result, it becomes extremely crucial for the majority of students to ensure that their efforts and progress are recognised by their teachers.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that there are a variety of activities that can be used to foster relationships with second- and fourth-grade kids. While some of these activities are not new, when taken together, they provide opportunities to promote a sense of school family and community.
ACTIVITIES THAT BUILD COMMUNITY
Birthdays: Three years before the founding of Covid, we formed the Birthday Crew, which consisted of one student from each class in our respective grade level. Each student’s birthday was entered into a database, and when a birthday occurred (assuming the student celebrated birthdays, which not all of them did), the Birthday Crew gathered first thing in the morning and decorated that student’s classroom door so that the student felt special as soon as they walked into the room. After that, the crew went inside the classroom and sung the birthday song while showering confetti on the student in question.
This grade-wide activity has been postponed because to the pandemic, but I am hopeful that the moment will come soon when we can resume making memories with our classmates once more.
Observances of cultural festivals: I work with a teacher who refers to her students as her school family. We made the decision a few years ago to begin commemorating everything that we commemorate with our family with our students as well. My pupils are still talking about the time we spent together celebrating Thanksgiving. We set up a large table with decorations and served our “meal,” which consisted of a bird made of popcorn, as well as juice and fresh fruit. We spent time together as a family and expressed our gratitude to one another.
Since then, the number of people participating in the festivities has increased. When we returned from winter vacation, we held a countdown and rang in the New Year with hats, confetti, and noisemakers, among other things. We helped to set the tone for a fantastic start to the new year. This year, I added a new occasion to my calendar. We had the customary Rosca de Reyes because the majority of my kids are from Mexico, and they celebrate Three Kings Day on January 6, so we had that as well. We had a good time figuring out who had gotten the miniature plastic babies hidden in the lovely, wreath-shaped bread. It is critical for students to believe that their cultural traditions are respected at their educational institutions.
During this exercise, one of the students sits in a chair facing the class (the hot seat), while the other students take turns going to the board and writing something positive about the student in the chair. Whenever they get stopped, I provide them with sentence stems such as “I enjoy how you…,” “Thank you for…,” and so on.
When everyone has completed their remarks, the student in the chair turns around and reads them aloud to the class. After that, we photograph them and email it to their parents. This activity has changed the lives of my pupils; one new student came in feeling extremely nervous, but after participating in this activity she discovered that the other students noticed something in her that she liked, and she grew more confident. We strive to have the hot seat at least once a week, but sometimes it’s more difficult.
“I wish my teacher had known”: I saw this notion, which was based on a book, on social media and thought it was great. I offer the pupils this prompt, and they are responsible for completing it. The children are aware that this is an exclusive activity. We utilise Seesaw, which is set to private so that the students can’t see each other’s work while they are working. This provides teachers with an opportunity to learn not only about the pleasant times in their students’ life, but also about the difficulties they are experiencing. The teacher may seek assistance from a counsellor and/or the parents, depending on the severity of the situation. The teacher and counsellor will collaborate to provide the best possible care for the student. Every six weeks, the entire class participates in this activity.
Celebrating progress: One of the most influential books I’ve ever read is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, which has completely transformed the way I teach my students. My kids understand that the most important thing is to put forth their best effort in order to learn and progress. Every time they make strides forward, we are ecstatic. Every year, students create a little piece of paper and attach it to the Growth Wall, along with a handwritten remark about their growth in one area that makes them most proud. This has given my students the confidence to keep striving to improve their abilities and expand their knowledge at least a little bit every day—they understand that it doesn’t have to be flawless the first time they do something. This is something we strive to accomplish every six weeks.
Teaching entails much more than simply imparting knowledge. We have transformed into a family that spends the most of the day together. The pupils must feel protected, seen, supported, and applauded in order for them to have positive recollections of this experience. These gatherings have aided us in our efforts to be a family and a community.