When students come into your classroom, how do you want them to feel? Happy? Excited? Respected? Safe? All of the above? When you’re putting together anywhere from 15 to 30 different personalities in a classroom, it can be hard to help every student feel so positive.
I’m Cait from Cait’s Cool School, and I’m excited to be here with you today to share some of the ways I’ve made this work in my classroom–tips I hope you can try, too!
1. Create a classroom community mission statement.
I like to write this up on anchor chart paper before school starts and present it on the first day. I love this one from Apple for the Teacher. It states, “We are a community of learners that can collaborate, communicate, create, and think critically through reading, writing, math, and technology.” When I present this statement to my students, we talk about what each of those heavy-hitting words means. It’s important that every student knows the expectations of how we all work together to be a community. I also like to remind them that even though I’m a teacher, I’m also a learner, and I hope to learn a lot from them!
2. Use daily questions to allow students to express themselves and learn about one another.
If you’re into Instagram, you might have seen some awesome whiteboard prompts by many teachers, including the popular hashtag #miss5thswhiteboard. I started using some of my own whiteboard questions and was amazed at what my students came up with. Using these questions kept us connected and focused on being good members of our community.
Find these (including a freebie) here: bit.ly/QOTDcategory
3. Create a “Wall of Respect.”
Block off a section of your whiteboard and have students sign their name when they have been showing respect for themselves, for others, and for their environment. I especially like to use this when students work in small groups. Afterward, I give them a short survey to ask them who was the most respectful in their group. This could be done on something as simple as a Post-It after a group activity. Students write their name, group number, and who they thought was the most respectful. So many of my kiddos would rise to the occasion and make sure to treat each other extra kindly until it became natural for them to act that way. Sometimes, I was amazed at how a student who used to be disruptive would change their behavior so they could be seen as a model of respect in our community.
4. Hold regular community meetings.
Some teachers call these “morning meetings” and hold meetings daily. My school schedule makes this difficult, so I like to have weekly community meetings, usually on Mondays. Each meeting follows a similar format.
- GREETING & SHARING: We do a welcome back to our neighbors (high five, “How you doin?” Joey-style, and Miss America wave, among others), and then I allow each person to choose one highlight from their weekend to share, if they choose. If you’re having daily meetings, it would be easier to choose 3-4 students each day of the week to share.
- BUCKET FILLING: After sharing, we do bucket filling, which is when we tell how someone else did something to help us or another person. For example, “My mom helped me with my math homework,” or “Bobby helped Maria pick up her books when she dropped them in the hall.” It becomes almost a fun game to see who we can spy doing good deeds around us!
- ISSUES & PROBLEM SOLVING: Now, it’s time to talk about any issues we’ve had as a class. Are we talkative? Do we call out? Have we been excluding others on the playground? Whatever the issue is, we then discuss what we can do to work it out. This is a regular chance for reminders about behavior and allows the students to work on self-monitoring.
- GOAL SETTING: First, we set a goal about any issues just discussed. Then, a few students share something they’d like to work on individually.
- ADJOURNED: We end our meeting each time by stating, “Meeting adjourned” as a class. My kiddos always think this word is super silly, and I see it as a fun way to teach them vocabulary (win/win!).
Caitlin is entering her 7th year of teaching. She has experience with 3rd-5th but has primarily spent her time in 4th grade (which is the best, if you ask her!). She loves to keep up a positive classroom environment (find more ideas on her Pinterest) and be creative in her teaching, especially in reading and writing. Connect with her on social media: Instagram, Facebook, blog, and Teachers Pay Teachers.