Building a Classroom Culture

Building a classroom culture will help set the tone and create a great learning environment. The time you spend building a strong classroom culture during those first few weeks of school will pay off in return throughout the school year. Team building activities get all the students involved and each student feels important as they all share a role in a common goal.  My kindergarten students worked on creating a classroom web.  Each student introduced themselves and told about something they like to do. Once they introduced themselves, they were asked to hold on tight to the string and choose a friend's name to go next.  I let the students know that they were all an important part of our class and they all need to work together as a team. Students were asked to hold on to their piece of string and not pull on it or let it go. Students were also asked to stay in their same circle space during this entire activity. We were all relying on each other to make our web happen.  It was a fun way to get to know one another while at the same time we were able to work together as a class in creating our beautiful web. I did have a couple of students who were a little antsy and needed reminders to hold on tight because we need your help.  This is to be expected with this young age.  We did manage to get all 22 students involved in this activity and take a quick picture before dropping the string. Students were really excited with the way the web looked when it was complete. I was very proud of them and I let them know that this is the kind of teamwork we will need in order to have a fun, exciting year of learning together in our classroom.

This week we also worked on creating classroom rules together. However, I chose to not use the term "rules."  Instead, I created a chart entitled "Expectations for a Peaceful Classroom."  We began by having a discussion about the word "Peace."  As we brainstormed the word peace together, we described it as meaning relaxing, calm and getting along with one another.  Next,  I asked the students to think about an expectation that they would like in order to have a peaceful classroom.  I let the students share their ideas with a thinking partner and then they were asked to go to the tables and draw themselves doing one expectation that they would like for our peaceful classroom. As the students were busy drawing their pictures, I went around and asked each student to tell me about their picture. I wrote what they said next to each of their illustrations. We gathered back in circle and students shared their pictures and ideas with their classmates.  We then worked on writing expectations on our chart to hang in our classroom.  Students ideas fell into four main categories that we all agreed upon.  For example, a couple of students said  "keep hands to self," while others said for us not to kick or punch. A few students drew themselves using walking feet. We discussed how all these are ideas to help us keep safe. We added "Keep Safe," to the top of our expectations. Here is the four main categories on our chart.

   Expectations for a Peaceful Classroom

Keep Safe
 Be Kind to Others
 Follow Directions
Show Respect

Having students work on rules/ expectations together rather than just posting rules and expectations is more meaningful to the students as they feel empowered. I feel that it is best to have just a few expectations rather than too many rules in which youngsters may not respond favorably to.

I had all the students sign the bottom of our chart. We all agreed together to work towards having a peaceful classroom. We proudly displayed our chart for Open House.

I just completed our first ten days of school and we have been super busy with several classroom building culture activities, Open House and lots of initial bench-mark testing. The first couple of weeks sure can be exhausting, but all this hard work will help set the tone for the rest of the year. I hope your school year is off to a great start!

First Day Excitement!

Today was an exciting day as our kindergarten class had our "Greet and Meet." It was a special day in which the students came in to our classroom for just a short time while their parents were busy meeting with the principal and filling our paper work to begin the school year. As the students came in and found their name tags on the tables, they were quite surprised to see a t-shirt draped over their chairs. I let the students put on their special t-shirts which were provided by our PTO. The t-shirts have a peace sign on the front with our school name.  We use the "PeaceBuilders" program at our school and I let my students know that we are going to have a safe, peaceful classroom with lots of fun and learning.  Once the students put on their t-shirts, I gave them a brief tour of our classroom and then asked the students sit down on the carpet in a circle. I sat a special puppet bear on my lap and showed the students how to play "Bear, Bear, passing by. Say your name and say hi." It was a great way for the students to introduce themselves while they all got a turn to hold the bear. This year I have 22 students in my classroom. I will have my hands full. This is a large group and it took some time for the bear to go around in the circle. The students were all engaged and only one student seemed a little teary eyed as she said she missed her mom. Next, I read the students a story about the first day in kindergarten and the time went by so quickly. I looked up at the clock and it was already time for the students to get ready to reunite with their parents. Before the students left, I gave each student a booklet for their parents to read at bed time. It was a cute poem with magic dust (small sequins) to put on their pillow before the first day of kindergarten. Tomorrow will be our first official full day of kindergarten. I am just as excited as the kids are. I am so glad I got a chance to finally meet my students and their parents this afternoon. I am looking forward to another successful year in kindergarten as we share moments of joy and laughter while we grow and learn together. 

Below is a picture of our "Pockets Full of Praise" bulletin board.  When I catch students being responsible, respectful, cooperative or helpful, I may fill out a praise note and stick it in one of the pockets of the overalls for all to see. This bulletin board also displays the virtues of what a "Peacebuilder" entails. Each day the students in our school recite the "PeaceBuilders" pledge. Each month we focus in on one of these virtues.  Admirable qualities of the "PeaceBuilders" program are shown on this special bulletin board and include the following:

PeaceBuilders Pledge

I am a PeaceBuilder. I pledge to... 

-praise people
-give up put downs
-seek wise people
-notice and speak up for the hurts I have caused
-right wrongs
-to help others 
-I will build peace at  home,  at school and in my community each day. 

The first few weeks of school it is so important to build a positive classroom culture. Students can't learn if they don't feel safe at school. They need to feel comfortable and confident.  They need to know that it is ok to make mistakes and be willing to take risks. Students need to take an active role in putting together class rules and learn the importance of why we have rules. This year it is my goal to learn more positive teacher language and work on creating a "peaceful classroom." I apologize for the fan being in the way in this photograph. It was 90 degrees out and we do not have air conditioning. I can't wait to put the fan away in a few more days when the weather starts to get a little cooler.  What are some of the things that you do in your classroom to create a positive classroom culture? Please comment below. Have an amazing school year!