Building Community

Routines + Community = Success

Teacher training programs focus on the importance of routines and procedures. From Teach Like a Champion to Harry Wong, we know that we have to be precise and consistent with our expectations. While I know these are important, I believe it to be equally important to build our class community.

In my first years of teaching, I spent so much time trying to control every moment of my class. I did not create enough space and time to get the class to know and understand each other. This year I will be very intentional about community building, from day 1 to the last day.

Community Building Activities:

  1. Greet Your Students every day. Stand at the door and welcome your students in. Use their name every day. Make eye contact every day. Shake hands, high-five, fist bump, elbow bump, pat on the back. This works for so many reasons: You make SURE that you connect with every student that day. You can see if they need extra love, support, or reminders of routines. They know that you are there for them and that you are holding them accountable for being a member of the class.
  2. Two Truths and a Lie about Electives: I want to know who my artists, dancers, actors, technology masters, engineers are. I will have students write their name in big letters on cardstock. In the middle of the cardstock, they will write 2 Truths and 1 Lie about their elective classes. I will take volunteers to read their Truths and Lies. The class will hold up their fingers to show if they think statement 1, 2, or 3 was the lie. The student will reveal their lie. Active Engagement Modification: Pair students up and give them one sticky note between the two of them. They will keep track of their score of how many Lies they detected. The partner with the most points at the end earns a high-five or a Starburst. ¡Ojo! Do not try to get to all students in one class period. Focus on a few students. Circle back to them so we can remember their names and their details. Quickly quiz the class on their names and interests. Keep the cards and bring up a few more students throughout the week.  I will be completing this activity is in English with my Spanish 1 and 2 classes because I think it is important to get a feel for their personalities. Also, I do not want to force them to use language they are not yet comfortable with. 
  3. Name Quizzes: On the 2nd day, give students a blank piece of paper. Point to a person we talked to yesterday. Have them write the name of that student. Have them write one thing they know about them. Grade it together in class. This one is a practice. Tell them there will be a real quiz on this later in the week. WHY? Because in order to learn a language, we need to be less stressed. When we have a supportive community, we are less stressed.
  4. Special Person Interviews: Bryce Hedstrom’s Special Person Interviews allows you to stay in the target language as you get to know your students by interviewing them in front of the class. Bryce kindly offered his resources for free at under “Special Person Interviews”
    Keys to Success with Interviews:

    • Start small. Start with 1-3 questions. Interview 1-3 students with these questions.
    • Focus on the student- not the language. Turn your body towards them. Pause and listen. Ask follow-up questions.
    • Keep it comprehensible. Post the questions in the TL and English. Point to the words. Write any unknown words on the board in the TL and English.
    • Teach and Re-teach your class how to engage in the interview.
  5. You/Me/Left/Right: This is a camp name game. Students stand in a circle with one person in the middle. Here are the details:
  6. More name game ideas here:
  7. Laugh Together: Find something funny or silly that works for your personality and your class. Ice-breaker games can be kind of cheesy but one game I like is called Elefante. Set-up: class forms a circle standing up (go in the hallway or outside if you don’t have space). There is a leader in the center. The leader points to one person. That person and the two people on either side of them have to create an elephant with their body. (Trunk in the center and giant ear on each side.) The goal of the leader is to be so quick that they confuse someone. If someone doesn’t move fast enough, they become the leader in the center. Add new animals or ask students for ideas. Confused by this description? Here is a video:

Here’s to a year of happy teaching!

5 thoughts on “Building Community

  1. Awesome ideas! No “behavior plan” is successful without classroom community and a feeling that students are connected to you. This is going to have a huge impact on your classes, and the classes of those of us who read your blog. I love the additional benefit of the Name Quiz– it teaches that we have to LISTEN to each other in this class: when teacher is talking to one student, the others tend to zone out, but the quiz teaches them that in this class, everyone is accountable for their ACTIVE LISTENING.


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