Back to School

One of the important things I learned through my National Board Certification was the importance of spending time at the beginning of the year to build a strong classroom community.   There are many ways to do this.  One of my favorites is by playing a game of catch with my class.  I throw out a squishee ball and when someone gets it, I ask his/her name.  I then write his/her name on the board and assign points telling him/her what an awesome job he/she did of getting/catching the ball.  I usually give 10 points to the first student.  I repeat the process but tell the students that they can only get the ball once.  As students get the ball, and I write their names on the board, I ensure that the scoring has nothing to do with his/her skill.  So if a child totally misses it, I might give them 100 points.  The next student that misses might get 5 points.  I make sure that the score is making absolutely no sense whatsoever.  I even give a student a million points!  By the time we finish, the kids are all frustrated and vocalizing it.  I then innocently ask, “What’s wrong?”  They complain it’s not fair.  I ask them if they think the highest score is the winner and tell them that the lowest score is the winner.  They quickly scanned the board to see who won.  Then I tell them, “I forgot.  It’s not the highest or the lowest, it’s everyone with a 5 in their score (or a zero or whatever).”  After some time I tell them that the problem is that there weren’t any rules.  I then say, “We really do need rules, don’t we?”   I erase the board and ask the class to brainstorm all the rules we should have for our class this year.  They have so many!  I write as quickly as I can.  Afterwards I ask if there are any rules on the board they didn’t already know.  No, of course not.  Each one is basically common sense.  I then tell them welcome to my class where no rules will be posted in the room because we all know them, and I respect my students and know they will respect not only me but each other by sticking to the rules that they already know.
Note:  I add in some rules that the kids might miss such as don’t get out of your seat while someone is at the front of the room speaking just to sharpen a pencil, throw away trash, get a drink, etc.  Also don’t interrupt for bathroom break unless you cannot wait for a break from the speaker.
Let me know what you think of this activity and/or share how you build your classroom community.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

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