Sunday, October 13, 2019

20 Powerful Classroom Community Building Ideas

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To all the jeep drivers out there...

Powerful Community Building Ideas

Do you do this when you pass another jeep on the road?

When my husband first started driving his Jeep, he noticed that other drivers would wave or lift a couple of fingers as they passed him. He looked it up online and found that it’s a “thing” for drivers in jeeps to acknowledge each other when they pass on the road. He also found forums and thriving community devoted to Jeep owners. He was excited to be a part of this new group, and he always looks for other Jeeps on the road so that he can acknowledge them.

His reaction was a reminder to me that people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. As educators, it’s important for us to create an environment where students and staff feel connected, important, and valued. 

In today’s post, I’ve gathered up 20 powerful community building ideas to share with you. Feel free to leave a comment and share yours!

In an article by Edutopia, they share 10 strategies and some of them take less than 5 minutes to do. Below, I’m sharing 3 from the article, one for each at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Friendly Fridays

Elizabeth Peterson is a fourth grade teacher who created “Friendly Fridays” as a way for her students to lift each other up. “Peterson has her students write a friendly, anonymous note to a classmate, practice using positive self-talk, or use storytelling to give a peer a pep talk.”

Group Salutes

At the beginning or ending of class or an activity, this teacher-led activity is a quick way to build community. “The shared gesture can be physical—like a high five—or social—a teacher could ask students to express gratitude to their group members.”

Don’t think this is a powerful enough strategy? The NBA did some research on their teams and how many times the players touch each other early in the season - high fives, fist bumps, etc. The ones who did the most touching early in the season had the best records as the season progressed.

Rose and Thorn Check-in 

While it may seem that high school students don’t need “morning meetings,” the Rose and Thorn check-in is a quick way for teachers to gauge students’ moods, promote empathy, and understand that every voice matters.

How it works: At the beginning of class, the teacher and students share something positive (rose) and something negative (thorn). Students are allowed to “pass” on their turn, but every student is given the opportunity to be heard every day.

“When teachers deliberately foster a sense of belonging by greeting each student at the door of the class, they see ‘significant improvements in academic engaged time and reductions in disruptive behavior.’”  

Collaborative Classroom Norms and Expectations

Susan Norris, a Hoover High teacher, facilitates students in her classroom as they create class expectations and norms. 

By doing this, she encourages student voice and increases ownership of the expectations by the students.

Send a Welcome Letter 

Even before students step foot in the classroom, teachers can start to build community by making students feel welcome and reduce fears by letting them know what to expect in the classroom. (You can read about 7 more community-building strategies in the article on

Class Read-Alouds

There are a lot of books that can be used to build community in a classroom. There are two that I am recommending to be used for a read-aloud at ANY level. Yes, you read that right. Even at the high school level, a children's book can be a wonderful resource to build a culture of kindness. 


My friend Jeff Kubiak wrote One Drop of Kindness. The story is about Gus, a one-time orphan, who believes that the only way to communicate is through hurtful words and actions. The town Gus lives in has a secret - and unlocking it, a ripple effect of kindness is felt throughout the town. 


The Invisible Boy is another story that can help to create a shared experience and a foundation for a sense of community in the classroom. The book is about a quiet student named Brian, who feels invisible at school until a new boy, Justin, "sees" Brian. From then on, Brian starts to feel less invisible and the other students begin to notice. It's a story about friendship, belonging, and the power of being "seen."

Here are some conversation starters and/or writing prompts:
  • What responsibility do we have to each other?
  • What actions can we do to help others feel like part of a community?
  • How can you reach out if you are hurting?

From the links and ideas above, you can find 20 ideas for building community in the classroom. What do you do at your school and/or in your classroom? I would love to hear from you in the comments below or reach out to me on twitter

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