You made it.
The bulletin boards are hung, the word wall is complete, student names are on desks, you’ve got your first day read-aloud, and even picked out your first day of school outfit.
Your students walk through the door. Now what? We know you’ve already got your plans set for the school days, but how have you incorporated building a classroom culture into your daily routine for the first few weeks of school?
“What you do on the first days of school will determine your success or failure as a teacher for the rest of the school year. Your desire to be an effective teacher will be defined by how you … set the stage for an effective classroom throughout the school year.”
-Harry Wong, The First Days of School, 5th Edition
If you have DE, then you already have a vast library of digital resources and instructional strategies that can help build a great classroom culture from the beginning. And, to help our K-2 and 3-5 educators reach our younger students, we’ve even built two new Choice Boards of ready-to-use activities: Creating Classroom Culture (K-2) and Creating Classroom Culture (3-5).
These Choice Boards provide activities that can be used at the start of your day, during transitions, or as a quick lesson warm-up. Use the final slide (show what you know!) as an opportunity for students to share what they learned about their classroom’s culture. Now let’s take a look at a few favorites!
Building a trusting community in your classroom starts with the students. Sure, you need to get to know them to best meet their needs, but it’s also important for them to learn from each other. In the Who Are You? activity, teachers can use the presentation (K-2 and 3-5) as well as the lesson guide (K-2 and 3-5) from Soar with Wings. In these modules, students will continue to explore the topics of self-awareness and social awareness as they’re given opportunities to lead with their identity and develop a more positive sense of who they are.
Combining academic content when building classroom culture is a win-win situation. Especially with the Ecosystems episode of DEmystified about bats and pitcher plants and how they rely on each other for survival. In this video, investigate ecosystems and how they help us understand complex connections between plants, animals, and their environments. Then flip the conversation to the classroom and ask your students:
- Who will you rely on in class this year?
- Who will rely on you?
- What makes someone reliable?
- What can you do to help make a healthy ecosystem in our classroom?
Making mistakes is a part of life, and normalizing that as early on as possible is incredibly important. After talking to students about what a mistake is, whether they’ve ever made one, or sharing examples of mistakes, have students watch The Three Little Pigs Build Their Houses. Afterwards, facilitate a class discussion about what the pigs did when they made mistakes and how they overcame them. Then, have students write or draw a picture of a mistake they’ve made and what they can learn from it.
These are just a few ways to build classroom culture this year—explore the many other easy-to-use. whole group activities that provide engaging opportunities for students to learn about their classmates, share what’s important to them, and develop skills to be happy and enthusiastic about learning.
About the Author
Ann Crilley is the Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Discovery Education. She started her career as a high school math teacher, before spending five years as an Instructional Technology Coach for elementary school teachers. She’s since served in a number of roles at DE, all focused on empowering our educators through professional learning, impactful resources, and the DEN Community. Read more >