Elementary team-building activities in the form of everyday interactions and teachable moments - these create a strong foundation for your classroom community.
Classroom meetings are important but don't think that you can build a strong community with just one meeting a week, or even one every morning. Inclusion classrooms take much more effort than that.
Just like adults on the job, relationships are really built upon dozen's of daily interactions, not upon staff meetings.
It is your ongoing job to encourage community-building actions to teach the kids how to interact appropriately with each other.
As with all other skills, start by modeling how to speak and behave. My rule for a compliment is that it must be specific. I hold myself to this rule and I expect it of the kids as well. It is not sufficient to say:
"Wow, Maria, good job on that science worksheet."
What Maria really needs to hear about her science worksheet is:
"I noticed that you correctly circled the changed variable."
"Great job punctuating that paragraph!"
Always remember that this is school...meaning that we don't do things just because they make the kids feel good. We do them because they reinforce good learning habits by making the kids feel good.
If you model this kind of complimenting during your elementary team-building activities, the kids will pick up on it.
As outlined in my page on classroom awards:
"Never underestimate the power of just noticing."
A compliment from the teacher is very motivating for a child, especially if it comes unexpectedly.
Use a compliment to encourage sharing of student work with the class. If a student is willing to have their work put up on the screen for examination by all, start by asking:
"Who has a compliment for Aleesha?"
After Aleesha hears a classmate say:
"You started all of your sentences with a capital letter."
...she is much more comfortable having others point out her punctuation errors.
Sharing work publicly is scary for anyone, but we must learn to do it to prepare for the adult world. Doing it correctly helps children feel safe with exposing their mistakes and teaches others how to critique in a kind manner.
And here's another very important point: Kids can learn to love giving compliments as much as they love to receive them. Help them learn the impact that their kind words can have on another person's confidence.
That's in the category of elementary team-building activities where the team members build themselves up!
Sometimes a student will seek a compliment from me by asking:
"Mrs. Weigle, do you think this is good?"
I always respond with:
"What do you think?"
This approach makes the child self-reflect and analyze their own work. They might respond:
"I know I multiplied correctly because I checked the fact family and I labeled my answer!"
Then I ask the same question they asked me:
"So Caryn, do you think this work is good?"
The response will invariably be:
"Yes I do!"
I smile and say:
...and off they go with a much more solid appreciation of their own work than if I had just given them a compliment.
Jump to the case studies page for examples on how to take normal - but difficult - behavior and use it to strengthen your classroom community.
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