Class meetings, everyday interactions and teachable moments - classroom team-building activities create a strong foundation for your classroom community.
Research is very clear on this topic: People (adults and kids) learn better from someone with whom they have a good relationship. Common sense agrees: How much are you willing to learn from someone you dislike? Everything that person says is automatically suspect in your mind. A student centered classroom relies on effective and genuine caring between teacher and students.
You are not hosting a corporate retreat; team building is not an activity that takes place near the first of the year, never to be repeated. It is an ongoing process of facilitating classroom meetings and other things that bring groups together, building inclusion in the classroom all year long.
Thoughtful approaches to classroom team-building activities can yield huge dividends for your class:
Sounds a little like a family, doesn't it? Well, that's what a student-centered classroom is all about...a group of people who care about each other. The items above are the threads that bind the kids to each other, sewn day-by-day until they can't be broken. But it certainly doesn't happen after a single activity. As noted above, inclusion in the classroom takes a year-long commitment.
These situations, however, can really be used to build your classroom team. Don't be mistaken...this can take some really hard work and the willingness to deal with some unpleasantness (including upset parents), but the payback is huge. I think you'll agree when you read the studies.
Students spend a lot of time working with each other in groups of two, three or more. This approach to learning can have a big impact on what learning actually takes place. Good student partners can accelerate or limit learning.
Speaking of classroom team-building activities, remember who the team captain is: You. An effective teacher regularly lets each and every student know that they are a valued part of her team.
On this team everyone plays
All too often, those kids who don't demand attention slip by unnoticed, until weeks pass by and they haven't spoken with their teacher except to respond to roll call or answer a direct question in class.
TIP: In addition to the positive comments you make about their school work, make an effort to have a relationship-building one-on-one with each kid at least once a week.
This does not have to be a long, sit-down session. It can be as simple as sharing a humorous observation with just that child and no one else, or complimenting their choice of book, or asking their opinion on the new bulletin board title and then doing what they say.
The importance of building this individual relationship was reinforced for me when I was a student teacher. My mentor teacher kept a checkoff list for the first several weeks of school to be sure she had a meaningful interaction with each child every week. During this critical starting period, shy kids can fade into the background and busy teachers can overlook them.
Classroom team-building activities at an individual level and effective Teacher-student communication. It is nothing more than making each child feel worthy of their teacher's attention...nothing more than making them feel like they are each a first pick for your classroom team...nothing more than winning little hearts and minds with simple niceness and genuine concern.
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Class Meetings that Reinforce Community
Keep your team-building meetings on track
Elementary Team Building Activities
Daily activities that reinforce community
Teachable Moments from Bullying
Case studies and lessons learned
Managing Student Partners
Pairing without pain: playing nice together
Maximizing the impact of daily interactions