Building a Strong Classroom Community: 7 Fun Activities For Students
No two classrooms are the same– your students have unique personalities, strengths, and needs.
Students who feel a part of a classroom community are more likely to take risks in their learning, explore new concepts, and confidently embrace challenges.
Continue reading this blog to learn about building classroom community as well as fun activities for students to try this school year.
Why Is Building Classroom Community Important?
Research shows that when a student’s sense of community increases, their participation and engagement also increase. When students have a sense of connection and belonging, they are more likely to thrive in their learning environment.
In addition, the Association of Children’s Mental Health (ACMH) states that 1 in 5 children has a diagnosable emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorder. Creating a supportive and inclusive learning environment better prepares teachers to meet the complex needs of these and all students in the class.
This is also true for ELL and bilingual students. English-focused curricula can be difficult for ELL and bilingual students to understand and therefore they struggle to find success in their class. Building a strong classroom community can help educators improve their teaching efforts and help ELL students develop a growth mindset, as well as other students.
7 Classroom Community Activities
When it comes to building community in the classroom, there are many avenues that you can take. Every class is unique, so deciding the best way to grow your classroom community will depend on a variety of factors. Before choosing an activity or game, contemplate some of the following questions:
- Is there a lot of cultural diversity in the classroom?
- What is the most effective way to manage your classroom and interact with students?
- Is there mutual respect present between students and teachers?
Remember to consider your students’ needs as you plan community-building activities. If you have ELLs in your classroom, evaluate the language support that they will need to fully participate in games or discussions. You may need to provide your English learners with visuals, like a picture dictionary, or sentence frames and starters to scaffold the activities for them.
Considering your students’ needs will make it easier to determine the best approach for building classroom community. Below, we’ve provided some fun and effective activities teachers can use to get their students moving in the right direction.
1. Get To Know You Bingo
A spin on regular bingo, this team building game is a great way to get students talking to each other about things they have in common. You can create bingo cards that feature similarities your students may share. Each card should have the same boxes to check off, but you can make the boxes as general or specific as they’d like.
For example, some options could include:
- “I have a pet.”
- “My favorite subject is math.”
- “I like ice cream.”
- “My favorite color is blue.”
Once each student has a card, ask students to read through the boxes and find one that describes themselves. Then, have students walk around the classroom and compare their boxes with their peers. When they find a friend who has chosen the same box, they can mark it off and return to their seat. Continue playing until someone has bingo.
2. Make A Team With…
For this team building activity, students will be encouraged to form “teams” based on their similarities. Compile a list of things you believe students will have in common. Read each instruction on their list and tell students to get in a team with those who share the same interest or truth.
For example, you can say:
- “Get in a team with people who have the same favorite season as you.”
- “Get in a team with people who have the same number of siblings as you.”
- “Get in a team with people who have the same birthday month as you.”
- “Get in a team with people who have the same favorite holiday as you.”
Students will have to walk around and talk to each other to find out which “team” they are a part of. You can do this multiple times to show students how the teams can change, emphasizing how they are alike and different in many ways.
To accommodate different learning needs or language proficiencies, you may want to create visuals for students to be able to complete the activity. For example, you may display pictures of different seasons in the corners of your room and ask the students to stand by their favorite seasons.
3. Venn Diagrams
This activity is the perfect way to get students thinking about their similarities and differences. First, you will put students in pairs and give them a blank Venn Diagram. Students can then discuss their similarities and differences with their partners.
It may be helpful to provide young students and ELLs with sentence frames or sentence starters to guide their discussion. For example, you may give students sentence frames that say, “My favorite food is ______.” or “I have _____ brothers and sisters.”
As students discover their similarities and differences, they can complete the Venn Diagram together. The goal of this team building game is to have students see and appreciate the things that make them unique as well as the commonalities between them.
You may do this weekly at the beginning of the school year, assigning students partners until all students have met with each other. Consider displaying their Venn Diagrams somewhere in your classroom or on a bulletin board.
Books are wonderful tools for building classroom community. They can serve as a launchpad for discussions, help students to make connections, and highlight classroom values.
Many picture books are designed to cultivate a sense of belonging and mutual respect. Below are a few of our favorites:
- Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
- Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali
- Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Read-alouds aren’t just for younger students—consider reading mystery or detective stories with your older students. Whether you read a novel or a short mystery story, give students opportunities to work together to make predictions or solve the mystery.
Reading aloud allows students of all ages to have a shared experience with a text, which naturally creates a sense of community.
5. Morning Meetings
One of the best strategies for building classroom community is encouraging meaningful conversations. Incorporating regular morning meetings benefits students of any age level.
According to Lily Allen Hughes, “The Morning Meeting uses teacher modeling for students to practice and learn important social skills that will benefit the students’ social and academic lives. Morning Meeting sets the tone for respectful learning, trust, cooperation, problem-solving, and a sense of community in the classroom.”
Depending on class size, you can break students into groups or have everyone gather in a circle to have a group discussion. Once everyone is settled, provide the students with a list of social-emotional learning prompts.
For example, these prompts can include:
- “What are five positive qualities about yourself?”
- “When working in a group, how can you show you’re a responsible partner?”
- “What are some skills you’re confident in?”
- “If a classmate is feeling left out, what can you do to make them feel included?”
You can either ask a question and call on students one by one or present all of the prompts at once and give each student a journal to write down and reflect on their answers before sharing.
6. Fill The Bucket
Based on a popular children’s book, “Fill the bucket” is a classroom community activity that teaches students the importance of helping others and being kind. Teachers can begin by having students read the “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” story independently or together. Then lead a class discussion about what types of things “fill” someone’s bucket.
After the discussion, create a space for students to record acts of kindness throughout the year.
You may want to provide some ready-made cards with acts of kindness written on them, such as “I held the door for someone.” or “I helped someone clean up their desk.” Be sure to include blank papers as well for students to write their acts of kindness.
There are many different ways that you can display your students’ acts of kindness:
- “Shout-Out” Bulletin Board
- Kindness Chain
- Kindness Score Board
- “Twitter” Board
- Digital Kindness Board
Teachers can encourage students to participate by giving them a goal or reward to work towards. Consider setting a goal of 100 acts of kindness during the school year and using a bulletin board or digital whiteboard to track their progress.
Students can either choose from pre-filled acts of kindness that you’ve displayed or write their own. Once your students have met their goal, celebrate with a class reward.
7. Just Listen
This team building activity encourages students to share their experiences and feelings about certain topics. You can break students into pairs or small groups and provide them with a list of questions or prompts to discuss.
For example, these questions can be:
- “If you could be any animal, what would you be?”
- “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
- “Describe your perfect day.”
- “Who is your role model?”
Students will each take a turn choosing a question or prompt and have 3–5 minutes to share their answers and explain why they feel that way as their partner(s) listen quietly. The game will continue until every student has answered a question.
Then, encourage students to present their partners’ answers to the class, showing them that they heard and understood what they were saying. If you’d like, take this activity one step further by encouraging students to reflect on similarities between their answers and feelings about certain topics.
Building classroom community is the key to ensuring each student has a voice. You can use any of these team building activities throughout the year to keep your students engaged and connected.
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