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Creating a Classroom Community: Part 2

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One of the most important phases of creating a supportive classroom community is to get to know your students as quickly as you can so that you can connect with each one on a meaningful level. You’ll find that just about every aspect of a successful classroom community is dependent on this knowledge.             

As the adult in the classroom, you are in charge of making sure that you have a positive relationship with every student. You will have to be the one who builds the bridge, who reaches out to your students, who inspires them to do their best. Many factors can negatively affect the relationship that you develop with your students, but only you can make sure it is a viable one. A successful relationship with your students will be just like the other meaningful relationships in your life; it will require patience, planning, and commitment.

Although there are dozens of different ways to get to know your students, you will only need to choose a few of the most appropriate ones for your students to establish the solid relationships that will make a difference in your classroom. In the list below you will find several strategies that can you can adapt to begin to establish those necessary connections with your students.

Speak with your students’ previous teachers and carefully study your students’ permanent records. This type of research will not only yield academic data, but also helpful personal information.

Observe your students as they interact with each other informally at the start and end of class in particular. You can learn a great deal by paying attention when your students talk to each other.

Ask students to briefly describe themselves to you: in one hundred words or fifty words or in ten words.

End class by asking students to reflect on the day’s instruction. Although this would usually be about the content of the lesson, you can learn a great deal about your students by asking them to write about themselves from time to time as well.

Ask students to make three statements to the class about themselves. Two of the statements must be true and the third one should be false. Have other students try to guess which one is the false statement.

Have students contribute slides for a class slide show. They can include photographs, favorite sayings, interests, and other personal information. You can run this as a continuous loop periodically throughout the term.

Ask students to list five things they can contribute to the class and then display the list in a prominent place in the classroom

Pay attention to body language. Many emotions are telegraphed unconsciously through body language.

Talk with parents and family members. Ask them to fill out questionnaires or write brief notes about their child.

Give students inventories to assess their learning styles and interests.

Ask students to write personal responses to various topics through journals, exit slips, or learning logs.

Pay attention to the books your students read and to the televisions shows, games, and music that interest them.

Talk with students about the way they prefer to organize their personal belongings and class work.

Offer students icebreaker exercises and pay attention to their interactions. Two very good online resources for these activities can be found at these two sites:

“56 Creative Ways to Get to Know Your Class” at Pearson’s Online Learning Exchange( http://olecommunity.com/56-ways-to-get-to-know-your-class/)

“Classroom Icebreakers” at Icebreakers.ws (http://www.icebreakers.ws/classroom-icebreakers)

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Julia Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Tech and spent the next forty years teaching in Arizona, North Carolina, and Virginia. Recently retired as a classroom teacher, Thompson works for the Bureau of Education and Research conducting seminars geared to help teachers support difficult and challenging students. She is also a contributor/blogger for the American Federation of Teacher's site, ShareMyLesson.com.

Author of several books for teachers, Thompson's most recent book, the fourth edition of The First-Year Teacher's Survival Guide, was published on Teacher Appreciation Day, May 8, 2018, a fitting date for a teacher who spent a lifetime learning from her colleagues both near and far.

Thompson offers advice for teachers on Twitter (@TeacherAdvice), on her blog (www.juliagthompson.blogspot.com) and on her web site (www.juliagthompson.com).

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Guest Sunday, 26 May 2019