Creating a sense of community in the classroom comes with many benefits, but this may seem far-fetched for some teachers as they find it difficult to handle students’ differences. Creating a sense of community in the classroom fosters unity, as everyone is actively involved in class activities. Research also shows that students who feel they ‘belong’ have a higher degree of intrinsic motivation and academic prowess. And establishing this sense of community is one of the easiest ways to boost students’ engagement.
However, It is important to note that since every student is different, creating this sense of belonging goes beyond the one-size-fits-all system. There will be a need to implement various strategies to create a conducive environment for all. Below are some tips to help integrate a sense of community in your classroom.
Create a Classroom Constitution
One of the easiest ways to integrate a sense of community in your classroom is to create a constitution that gets everyone involved and on the same page. To do this, spend a section of your first week with your class, asking them what is most important to them in their learning environment. Then, help them decide on three to five guidelines that they pledge to agree to. This will help everyone know what is acceptable and unacceptable in the class.
Organize weekly class meetings
Another simple way to integrate a sense of community in the classroom is by organizing short weekly meetings with your class. It could be an interactive section for teachers and students, where teachers get to know students more, and students interact with their peers.
If you have established the class rules and regulations, you can discuss further the constitution in the meeting or give students the chance to ask specific classroom-related questions.
In all, the content of the meetings should depend on the age group of the students in your classroom. If students know these meetings are coming up, they will have a small event they can always look forward to beyond the regular curriculum. They will also feel that they have ownership of the classroom and build camaraderie with their classmates.
Create a Routine
A routine will help breed familiarity and comfort within your classroom, thus strengthening the sense of community. You could dedicate different activities to different times of the day and days of the week. These activities must be fun, interactive, and intuitive.
Organize field trips
Field trips and camps also build a sense of community amongst students. However, you will have to find a way to create closure for students who cannot participate (due to disabilities, family or financial limitations, etc.). You can keep them connected to and fro the journey via an online session. Besides that, remember to involve students in the decision-making process of funding, selecting locations, etc., to increase their participation.
Encourage the exchange of pleasantries
In addition to creating a routine, you can create a shout-out/compliment culture, encouraging students to exchange pleasantries. This is not for students alone, as teachers can compliment students and vice versa. This routine is also time-friendly and allows students to recognize one another for good work, and also allows teachers to showcase positive examples for the rest of the class.
Work together toward a mutual goal
To create a sense of community in the classroom, you must implement teamwork and collaboration. Pairing students together to work towards a common goal is a great way to keep the class connected. Group works give students a voice, as everyone will have the chance to make suggestions, share with the teacher, and teachers have the opportunity to learn more about their students. And this, in turn, builds a sense of community.
Unity in learning makes teaching a lot easier, as students will be eager to look out for themselves: those who comprehend lessons faster will find it pleasing to assist the slow learners. Modeling acceptance and inclusion, prioritizing communication, and student recognition are some of the best strategies for integrating a sense of community in the classroom.
And by working with a team of professionals (counselors, psychologists, school administrators, etc.) with experience in establishing a sense of community and using different classroom management strategies, you can better understand your students’ needs.