Community Building Activities
Taking time to build community with my students is something that is important to me. Students cannot be expected to learn if they lack a sense of belonging. Starting with getting to know my students at the beginning of the year and working on maintaining mutual respect between all members of our classroom, building community is very valuable to everyone’s learning experience.
I spent time building community with my grade 4 class, during my first practicum. In the picture above, we are building our class web. This activity is done by standing in a circle with a ball of yarn. The ball of yarn is passed from one student to another. Each student must say one nice thing about the student they are passing to. As the yarn is passed along, a piece is held onto while the rest is passed along, creating a visual web. This web shows the class how we are all connected. It was a powerful activity that left an impact on us all.
Time spent building community helps improve the students’ experiences at school. When students feel safe and accepted, they are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.
Creating Classroom Community Cookbook
Creating safe, inclusive, and accepting classrooms is vital to student success. In the first year of the B.Ed. program, we had an entire course dedicated to teaching us about how to build community in our future classrooms. The final assignment in the class was an open-ended assignment so I chose to create a cookbook filled with recipes designed to create help teachers create community with their class.
Having a growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset can help students believe in themselves and their potential to succeed. Maintaining a growth mindset can be difficult at times for some students. Having tools to help students remember their potential and regain their self-confidence and self-esteem are important. In my first practicum, I created this growth mindset goal setting chart to help students set attainable goals for their day. They would set a goal first thing in the morning, and focus their day towards meeting that goal. Seeing their faith in themselves restored after a difficult day, knowing that they at least managed to accomplish one goal, was heartwarming.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
In my first practicum, my grade 4 class had a hard time understanding their emotions and coping with those emotions. We had set up a “safe space” for them to go when they needed a break to center themselves. This safe space was very successful. The students found it helpful and they respected its use and rules. My AT and I decided we should add some additional prompts to help students recognize their emotions, understand how they were feeling, and find a way to cope with it. We used colours to help students identify their emotion. Once they could identify what they were feeling, could check the board for strategies they could use to cope with it. I found that the effectiveness of the safe space was improved when prompts and suggestions were added it.
Using UDL and Differentiated Instruction help teachers better serve their students. Lessons and units should be designed with your students in mind and tailored around their interests and needs. Students will be more successful when they are given the right tools to help them meet their goals and when they see the relevance of the material to their own lives.
A good example of a way to differentiate for students by using Foldables. In the example above, I had my students create a Foldable to help them learn the vocabulary associated with the rocks and minerals unit in grade 4 science. This particular class had several different needs and their reading and writing levels ranged very poor to at grade level. I gave students the option of drawing as opposed to writing which helped cater to the needs of the students who struggled with reading and writing. All of the students were able to participate in the activity according to their abilities, all of the students were engaged, and all of the students retained the material better because of the time they spent defining these terms.
Technology in the Classroom
Integrating technology into lessons can help enhance student learning. Technology should augment and enhance student learning in order to be effective. There are so many ways technology can be used to enhance the learning experience. If technology is available to be used, it is a valuable tool to use with students.
With so many different tech tools to use that can be used in so many different ways across all subject areas and linked to curriculum, it is definitely worth using with students. Using technology also equips students with the knowledge of how to use these tools which can benefit them in their everyday lives as well. It can also help differentiate lessons and assignments to help create equity for all students.
Allowing for Student Self-Expression
Lessons that allow students to connect with the material on a personal level can help them express themselves. Allowing students to show you something about themselves in assignments can help you learn more about your students. Students don’t always have opportunities to express themselves or reflect. They usually enjoy these types of assignments and lessons. Your students will always amaze you! Provide them opportunities to show you more about themselves and what they are capable of.
Learning Outside the Classroom
Learning can happen anywhere! Why should we only teach in our classroom? Even in our classroom, why do students have to learn only at their desks? There is so much to explore outside of our four walls. I like to provide students opportunities to learn by experiencing the material. It is much more valuable to them when they see the real world connections.
Allowing opportunities for self-directed learning can help some student flourish. It is important to create opportunities that a variety of learners can benefit from. I tried center-based learning in my practicum and the students loved it. They were able to work at their own pace and learn from each other.