Community building is all about creating a space where students and educators agree to work together on shared goals with respect and openness. When you create a space where students feel comfortable and safe, it can lead to more learning, more engagement, positive behavior, and stronger connections to their peers.
Since high school students often move from class to class throughout the day, it can be difficult to make sure they feel a part of a community. Keep reading for easy-to-implement strategies you can use to help you foster a sense of community in your high school classrooms.
Strategy 1: Set time for a weekly class meeting
For homeroom or advisory classes, set aside at least two short meetings a week, no longer than 10 minutes. The first meeting can be held at the beginning of the week. This allows you to get a pulse check on how students are feeling, discuss what they’re learning in their classes, and chat about what they may be doing outside of school.
The second meeting can be scheduled for the end of the week. This can be a good time to see how the week went for your students.They can share what went well — and what didn’t — along with what they’d like to improve on. It’s also a good time to review anything that might’ve happened from the past week.
Overall, weekly meetings are a great opportunity to get your students involved. Ask them what things they’d like to discuss in both meetings, and have them co-create the agenda for the meetings so they can feel a sense of ownership.
Most community building happens outside of the classroom, when students have the opportunity to socialize with other students who share common interests. Encourage your students to choose an extracurricular activity that sparks their interest and allows them to form relationships.
Strategy 3: Set up social-emotional routines
This can come in many different forms, but simply speaking, it means you are dedicated to checking in with your students about how they’re feeling. Give your students the time and space to check in with themselves and with their peers. Emotions can greatly affect the feeling of community within your classroom. If students aren’t comfortable enough to bring their authentic selves to the classroom, they likely won’t feel a part of the community.
- Set aside time for self-reflection journaling. Give students time to jot down their thoughts, how they may be feeling and set goals for themselves.
- Get to know your support team. Set up time to chat and get to know your school’s counselors. social workers and therapists.This will be helpful whenever you need to provide a student with extra support and whenever you need suggestions for implementing SEL in your classroom.
Finding ways to make students feel comfortable and safe expressing themselves in your classroom will ultimately go a long way toward building a supportive classroom community,
Strategy 4: Give students opportunities to collaborate with each other
Assign projects to your students that give the chance to work with their peers. Create new pairs and teams on a rotating schedule so students can get to know each other.
Additionally, as part of an assignment, you can ask students to present their work to the class and give the students listening a chance to review each presentation. For those listening, create a checklist so they know what to look out for. This will give students the opportunity to learn and grow together, but also strengthen their ability to give positive and constructive feedback to others.
Strategy 5: Schedule time for classroom and school-wide events
Making time for school events can be a fun and effective way to build community in your school. There are a wide range of events you can hold that gives students the chance to participate, socialize, and get to know each other. Work together with other teachers and administration to plan and organize various events throughout the school year. Here are some suggestions:
- Field Day: A full day of fun for students to play, compete and get to know each other. Break students into groups with students from different grades to give the older students a chance to be leaders and younger students the opportunity to learn from their older peers. Set up obstacle courses with various activities for students to participate in and let the fun begin!
- Project Showcase: Give students a chance to share research they’ve done for different classes. Showcases can be held in front of just the class or entire school. This gives students the chance to share what they’ve been working on and what they’ve learned. You can leave time for a Q&A session so students can learn from one another.
- Class Competitions: Work together with other teachers in your grade level or subject area to create class competitions. This can be an exciting way for students to work and learn together. Break students into different teams and give them problems to solve, you can organize the competition in a number of ways:
- Speed competition: Give students a problem to solve and the team to finish the problem first wins.
- Timed competition: Give students a number of problems to solve and the team to finish the most problems in the shortest time wins.
- Game Show: Read questions aloud and have students answer the questions. Have each question be worth a certain number of points, whichever team has the most points wins.
Get your students involved in your local community by scheduling time for them to volunteer, hear from locals. and work together for a good cause. This can be done in various ways:
- Career Fair: Invite business owners, non-profit organizations and locals to speak to your students to encourage them to make time to get involved and learn from people outside of the school.
- Canned Food Drive: This can be turned into a class competition to get students involved and excited. Whichever classroom collects the most canned food for a local charity gets a prize.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Partnering with a local nonprofit can give students the chance to help strengthen their relationships within their community. Students can read to students in the elementary school or library, or have class park clean-ups.
With these strategies, you can start to build community in your high school classroom. Providing students with a safe and open environment that allows them to feel comfortable and do their best learning.