Creating a Community of Learners

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Classroom Application
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“Classroom structures and processes need to tend to the emotional well-being of everyone rather than just on covering the day’s lesson plan.”

Zaretta Hammond

Establishing a classroom culture built on community is fundamental to developing the students’ social and emotional skills throughout the school year. In the quote above, educators are encouraged to create an environment that includes their students’ social and emotional development as part of the curriculum.

The thought of creating opportunities to build a community of learners is often overwhelming to start the year. Teachers focus on creating a welcoming physical space, lesson planning, and the pressures of pacing guides for high-stakes testing to begin the school year. However, they also need to take the time to build a community of learners, so the students feel welcomed and supported. Reflective classrooms help students be known and know one another, which is vital for understanding different perspectives in the classroom. A positive classroom community also helps students feel empowered and mitigates many challenges that may arise. Listed below are strategies for any age group to build a strong classroom community.

Class Meetings

Quick and simple class meetings once a week provide an opportunity for students to share how they’re doing. The teacher can also share a classroom-related question or discussion prompt. Providing students the opportunity to lead the class meetings allows them to experience belonging in the classroom and build relationships. Encourage your students to co-construct classroom expectations around the values necessary for a positive classroom environment.

Six-Word Memoirs

Six-Word Memoirs are a robust activity for self-reflection and offer students a new lens from which to see their classmates. They are a powerful activity to foster conversation around big ideas, and they are also a good ice breaker for class meetings. Use a tool like Microsoft Sway (reviewed here) for the students to share their memoirs or foster a discussion using Flipgrid (reviewed here). The students could also create a podcast using Synth (reviewed here).

Shared Goal

Discuss a shared goal appropriate for your class and brainstorm ideas on how to reach that goal. This activity builds a supportive classroom culture and climate as the students discuss the necessary steps to success. In addition, they can track their progress towards achieving both individual and group goals and facilitate discussions around performance.

Learning Teams

Create teams of students in the classroom for cooperative and collaborative learning experiences. The groups can then establish smaller communities within the classroom. Assign roles for the students during activities and take advantage of the breakout room feature if you’re learning online. 

Creating a classroom community is vital to a successful school year, but it doesn’t just happen after one activity on the first day of school. It is critical to spend the time to plan, prepare, and implement the necessary activities to develop a community of learners throughout the school year. A positive classroom community is crucial to student success. What are your favorite strategies and activities to build a classroom community of learners? We’d love to hear your strategies and activities in the comments below!  


About the author: Kevin Bower

Kevin Bower has 18 years of elementary teaching experience, is a certified reading specialist, and teaches instructional technology to pre-service and practicing teachers. He has presented nationally, had his teaching practices cited in various publications, and published a collaborative article on infusing technology into the balanced literacy classroom. Kevin’s research interests focus on using technology to best meet the needs of students with diverse abilities.


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