Thursday, July 12, 2012

Building a Classroom Community

Even though it's summer, my brain doesn't seem to understand...I've been thinking about things from years past that I know I want to do again next year.  One of the things I tried this year was my "Our Family" unit that I started the first day of school.
I posted the blank board instead of the ones with pictures for privacy reasons.

It's so important to set an atmosphere of safety and family in your classroom.  The way you make your class feel is how they will respond while in your classroom.  Think about it, you don't act the same way dressed up at church as you do eating at a restaurant.  Your expectations in every place you go are different.

I've always said that when my students walk through my classroom door, first and foremost, they know it's a safe place where they are loved.  They also know that I expect their best and nothing less.  Building this environment is not easy especially when we all come from such diverse backgrounds.  One thing that helped build our classroom family from the first day of school was my "Our Family" board at our carpet area.  At our school open house, I sent a note asking for a family picture with as many family members in it as possible.  Students brought in their family pictures for the first 2-3 weeks of school and we added them one by one to our board.  Each student was given the chance to stand in front of the class and explain who was in the photo and answer questions about their family.  Not only did they enjoy sharing about their family, it gave everyone a common ground to start from.  It became a type of ice breaker for students to talk to one another and ask questions.  As an added bonus, I was able to learn about their families quickly too.  It's hard sometimes to piece together family dynamics of students and sometimes this is the key to understanding a students needs.  If they spend most of their time at grandmas house, that's something that I need to know.  If they share a bedroom with 4 other siblings, that is also something I need to know. This was also a great way to incorporate information about myself which is always so exciting for the kiddos.  I think they love it so much because it lets them see that you are human.

I would love to hear the things you do to build your classroom family!  


  1. SO TRUE! I must admit I had the biggest smile on my face when I read your post because I have been thinking about this issue also! It is imperative that each student feels accepted, special, and supported; in other words, part of a "family." "We are family (love that song).
    In the past in my classroom, I have used Morning Meeting to help build strong bonds between my students; they share one thing that happened the previous night; another student adds a positive comment. I have also done a ME BAG and used a Traveling Beanie. Additionally, I repeatedly emphasize that it is not me and them it is US! We are all learners, teachers, and we support one another and all of us shine when we help others shine!

  2. OH! My gosh! This is a great idea! I love that you can get a basis on what their "home life" is like through just as simple as sharing about their family. It's something that they all have prior knowledge off! Not only that, but it helps you have a glimpse of something to get to know students with. That's the HARDEST part for me! As soon as school starts we are taking beginning of the year testing, teaching procedures, etc... so being able to do this will require you to stop and get to know your students. Oh goodness! I now need to visualize this in my room! Thank you Randi! :)
    Patterson's Porch

  3. This is an amazing idea! The area that you set up with your picture board is so cozy and friendly. Where did you get the owl pillow? He is adorable!!

    First Grade Magic

  4. That is such a wonderful idea Randi! I was thinking of putting framed family pictures up on a bookshelf (an idea I saw on pinterest). I completely agree that we need to set an atmosphere of safety & love. :)
    Learning Is Something to Treasure

  5. I love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Delighted in Second

  6. I love this post Randi! I am going to do a Friends and Family board this year. It is part of Conscious Discipline and one of the structures I haven't done yet because of space. The "friends" part takes into consideration my kiddos who are in foster care.

    I agree about the importance of building your School Family and creating a safe place. You might want to think about having a Safe Keepers box. Everyday I make a commitment to each of my kiddos that I am going to keep them safe because that is my job in Our School Family. They then make their commitment back to me and put their heart in the Safe Keepers box.

    I would love to share more with you about what we do and I would love to hear more about what you do! =)

    One of the Conscious Discipline cds has some great songs that we sing during Our Family Circle time.

    Heather's Heart

  7. I couldn't agree with you more. This is so important in a classroom. So everyone feels accepted and important.
    The Hive

  8. Hi! I just gave you the Versatile Blogger Award. Come check it out at

  9. I absolutely LOVE this idea. I've always taught my students we are a big family, but I think having a visual would be awesome for them! Can't wait to use this idea!

    Elementary Adventure

  10. My husband takes family pictures on Meet the Teacher night so that I have them to learn their names over the weekend. Otherwise we'd always have someone who couldn't bring a family picture. The children use them for consolation when they are missing their families. We also do two introductions each week when the children can bring anything they want for show and tell.


  11. I love your blog! I just hopped over from Katie King's blog to keep checking out more and more great ideas from awesome teachers! Now I'm wanting to make a blog of my own.

  12. What a sweet idea!! I always have my kiddos bring in picture of them with their families to share the first week of school. We do an activity called "Me Bags" and one of the items they have to bring is a picture of their family, which leads to a discussion on our classroom community together :)

    ❤ -Stephanie
    Falling Into First



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