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When you visit family and friends, do you feel more welcomed when your hosts greet you? For most people, the answer is yes. Your students feel the same way! When they walk toward their classrooms each morning and see a familiar friendly face standing at their classroom door, it helps set the tone for the day. When you greet each child by name in a unique way (such as a special handshake or a personalized good morning), they feel cared for and appreciated.
The benefits of building a classroom community goes beyond your classroom walls. Consider the fact that 46 million children are exposed to violence, crime, abuse, or psychological trauma, as well as homelessness, food insecurity, poverty and racism annually in the United States. Experiencing these types of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) creates toxic stress that affects attention, learning, and behavior. But these simple, yet powerful welcoming routines, in addition to daily social-emotional learning (SEL) practices in the classroom, can help buffer the effects of stress and other negative influences that students are exposed to.
In the video Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope, by KPJR films, it discusses the importance of teaching and providing opportunities for children to practice social-emotional learning skills to help them build protective factors, which help counter the effects of toxic stress. It is also well-documented that building children’s resilience, relationship skills, and compassion predict better outcomes for children. As noted by Darling-Hammond and Cook-Harvey in their research brief, Educating the whole child: Improving school climate to support student success, “these skills including their ability to interact positively with peers and adults, to resolve conflicts, and to work in teams, all contribute to effective learning and lifelong behaviors…”
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL), a leading non-profit organization whose mission is helping make evidence-based social and emotional learning an integral part of education from preschool to high school, has identified these five broad and interrelated areas of SEL competence:
Developing these essential competencies in your classroom doesn’t have to take away from your instruction. In fact, many great teaching practices integrate academics, social-emotional learning, and positive behavior. One way to introduce a consistent and effective practice into the classroom is by starting each day with a morning meeting. A morning meeting is a 15-20 minute daily activity that:
It also provides students with a predictable routine once they have entered the classroom. During the morning meeting, the teacher can model behaviors of respect, caring, and fair decision-making. Teaching different strategies such as goal setting, compliment circles, and sharing fun fact cards all help students develop a sense of belonging and community. For example, set up a share chair with an anchor chart with sentence starters such as “Why did you decide to…?” to help students with their thinking
During the day, provide meaningful work that connects to students’ prior knowledge and experiences and opportunities for cooperative and collaborative learning. This encourages students to work together and assists students in practicing the SEL competencies. Designing lessons that require students to explain and elaborate on their thinking, how they problem solve, and how they self-assess are great ways to reinforce critical thinking and their social emotional skills!
Finally, end the day in a meaningful way to recenter your students back to a sense of community. This could look like a five-minute calming activity that provides time to reflect and relax. For example, an exit ticket where students can record the biggest takeaway or highlight from the day and share with a peer helps with summarizing and reflection.
A classroom community is a safe and positive learning space where students feel supported and encouraged to learn. It can make all the difference for your students in less than 30 minutes a day!
For more ideas on activities that encourage a positive classroom community, such as mindful minute, think-pair-share, four corners, and six-word novel, get in touch with us! Our team of experts are well-versed in SEL, behavior, academics, and much more. We would love to help support you in creating a safe and positive learning space for your students.