Topic: Creating classroom community

John, Sam, Acadia, Abri

Final Group Products:

Link to our sample Web site: Website
PowerPoint presentation
Group paper

Process:

Problem: How do we quickly create classroom community at multiple levels that is sustainable in the long-run?
  • Lack of community results in student disengagement from material and class itself
  • Students tend to only talk to friends they already have rather than interacting with all of their classmates
  • Not every student participates on a regular basis
  • Students do not always trust or respect each other

Solutions: Build community from the bottom up, starting with small groups, moving to class as a whole, then to other classes, and then to the school (e.g. idea of different group sizes to ensure the creation of a community, from 1-on-1 interactions, to small groups of 2-4, to "social space" of 5-25, to large group 25+, to the entire school

Community_Model.jpg

  1. Several group activities at the beginning of the first class to help students get to know each other
    • Speed Dating/Speed Talking/Cocktail Party = get kids walking around the room and sharing about themselves in a structured manner
    • Trust activity (guiding someone with their eyes closed through the room, etc)
    • Walk the line (step forward to this tape line on the floor if you have ever )
    • Talk about class expectations and behavior in small groups before setting firm rules as a whole class
    • Pick a class name
    • Activity to help kids think about considering all perspectives and people (e.g. Sam's witch trials activity)
    • Discuss big concepts and questions in subject, help kids define class goals for what they hope to accomplish
    • Create community through a discussion of class expectations and class content
  2. Long-term grouping that is decided a few weeks into the school year once the teacher has determined which students work well together (initially) ... this grouping can, and should, be changed throughout the year so that all students have experience working with all of their peers
    • For discussion purposes ... kids discuss in their groups and then share as a whole class
    • Collaborate to solve complex problems (use Web resources)
    • Could be paired based on learning styles to ensure that you don't have the same learning style in a single group
    • Could be paired based on maturity or skill level
    • Change groups every 6, 9, 18 weeks, depending on preference
    • Maybe change groups more often in the beginning
  3. Classroom Web site with a different page for each class to facilitate inter-class interaction
    • Classroom names
    • Classes "compete" for class points (think Harry Potter) that are awarded based on participation, behavior, etc
    • Not interested in creating competition within the class, but between classes is probably okay because students are less likely to know all of the students in other block periods
  4. A discussion board/blog for each class that students must contribute to, as well as an inter-class blog where the teacher posts synthesized main ideas and points from individual class discussions/blogs
    • Linked to from the class Web site
    • Require interactions as part of grade
    • Could be done through Blackboard or another secure site
  5. Other ideas?

CT Feedback
Abri: "Fundamentally, a class works well together if they work well with the teacher. Building respect goes hand in hand with building trust. Opening get to know you are more effective with freshmen. Teachers of seniors don't use many of those activities since the students all know each other. Once they decide you are fair, know your subject, and keep the class pace going, the community within the class will be great. I've found silly things like the football guessing, blood drives, and sharing cultural events from my family go a long way to building community."

Sam: "It looks like pretty standard stuff that would work. My greatest concern would be for security. I don't know a lot about how these things work, but I know that security is an issue that should be taken care of. Also, Some things to consider are:
  • Not all students do well in groups
  • What to do for students who do not participate and refuse to do the community activities
  • Use community to diagnose and treat students who are falling behind - peer tutoring
  • Try to incorporate differentiation techniques

Acadia's CT: "I like it, it looks good. Make sure to keep it adult and challenging. But, I think its doable. The website would really help with it."

John's CT:
  1. I like the idea of students generating what they feel are the expectations and objectives of the class. If students help set the parameters maybe they will feel more owner ship.
  2. Juniors and Seniors tend to shy away from "games" of the nature you suggest. If the teacher is not careful, some of these games can go dreadfully wrong and leave students feeling threatened or vulnerable. It often works better to find a "game" or simulation that fits with the curriculum early on in the semester. Trick the students. They get to know each other without realizing they are building community.
  3. The changing group suggestion does depend on school schedule. It also would be good for students to review the expectations and behavior parameters for the group. What will each group put up with?
  4. I am wary of the classroom competing aspect. This strategy can work on an informal basis. However, if you are in high school and you teach a variety of courses the playing field may not be level. I am not a fan of behaviorist models anyway. I encourage students to find the "intrinsic" motivation for their actions. You might consider how this perspective could add to community building--it certainly worked for Montessori.
  5. Lastly, you are brave to suggest blogging. I do think students could get a lot of this strategy. However, it would need to be closely monitored--which is labor intensive for the teacher. This strategy could easily tear down community. I would see it as a strategy to use with older and more mature students.

Synthesis
  • First Day Lesson Plan: Goal is classroom name
    • Class activity: Walk the line
    • Class activity: Speed talking
      • Being led through the classroom blind
      • Speed questions: either raising hand or walking the line
    • Group activity: Getting to know you
    • Group activity: Goals for the class
    • Class activity: Classroom name
  • Activities for later in the week
  • Activities for later in the year
  • Use technology to maintain the community throughout the year