Five Great ways to Build Community and Get to Know your New Students and Their Families

The school year is about to begin, and you’ll want to get to know all of your new students, and bond with them. Here are five great ways to do just that. Enjoy!

1. Take your time during the first week of school. – There is so much to do that first week of school. There are things you want to do in your classroom – start your new routines, get to know you activities etc. Not to mention things your district has put into place. My best piece of advice is to just take your time – if you are rushed and frazzled trying to do too much each day, your students will be too. The first week of school should be enjoyable for your students, and for you. If you can make that first week great for everyone, you are setting the climate for the entire year. Do not rush through any activities. I tend to over plan for my first week, but if I don’t get to all of my fun activities during week one, it’s okay. If you begin a great activity and are suddenly called to a last minute assembly, just take a deep breath and smile. Tell your students to leave their work out, and return to the activity when you return. Remember your students take their cue for reactions and moods from you.

2. Plan activities and assignments that incorporate the whole family. The first week of school you are guaranteed to have everyone’s attention. That will not be the case all school year. This is your chance to bring your families into the fold of your classroom. I try to do fun activities that get the whole family involved. One great activity is to ask students to find out how they got their name. Students go home and talk to their family about it, write about it (or in younger grades, have their parents write down the story) and bring it back to school to share with you. This is a great way for you to learn more about your students, and a great way for families to learn about what you are doing in the classroom.

Another fun family activity is having students create a family tree. Once again, this is not an activity that students can do independently. It allows the whole family to get involved. It is also a great way in the younger grades to let parents know that you expect them to help their children continue learning at home.

3. Have each student make a small representation of themselves that you then put together into one large classroom piece.
Each year I buy these little puzzle peopleand have each child turn it into a miniature version of themselves. I then put the puzzle together on the top of a bulletin board, and leave it up all year long. It lets the class know that we are all connected, and a miniature family for the entire school year. On the last day of school I take it down and the children love taking their mini person home.

4. Put up a Welcome bulletin board for the first day of school that includes each child’s name. Try to have this bulletin board up in time for any school events you may have before the school year actually begins. The students and their families love this because they feel welcome when they see their name, and they can scan the board to see which of their friends from previous years are in the classroom.

5. Have students roll play proper ways to invite others to join them at play. This is a great activity to do right before the first recess or lunch. Remind the class that everyone did not go to this school last year, and we are all in a new class this year. Have students model for one another what to do if they see someone playing on the playground (or sitting in the lunchroom) alone. This builds a sense of community and reminds students to interact with everyone.

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