What steps can you take to form relationships, establish routines, and create a community within your classroom that cultivates kindness and trust — and encourages your students to try their very best each day? Take a look at these thoughtful suggestions and resources from TpT Teacher-Authors:

Ideas for Elementary Classrooms

Positively Passionate About Teaching: Teachers Pay Teachers“From day one, I teach my class that we are a ‘family.’ I tell them that at times our ‘family’ may not get along or agree on everything, but we WILL respect one another and treat each other with kindness. Throughout the year, we talk about random acts of kindness. I let students share acts of kindness they’ve done and how others have been kind to them. When I hear of students being kind, I compliment them, send a text to their parent(s), call home, or give them an ‘I Was Caught Being Good’ bracelet. I’ve been known to snap a picture of my students showing off this coveted bracelet and sending it to their parents (which always brings an enormous smile).” – Positively Passionate About Teaching

“In our district, we have weekly class meetings and monthly themes about character. In 1st grade, it was more about teaching students how to participate and what to say during these meetings in the beginning of the year. I also throw bucket filling into my classroom and use a packet that I’ve created which gives students ‘challenges’ each week, so they can focus on others and try to encourage others. This really helps builds class community! I found that I had a very happy classroom last year after using all of those approaches together.” – Rulin’ the Roost

Kelly Benefield: Teachers Pay Teachers“I believe that a key to a healthy classroom community is modeling good behavior for my students. When they see that I show love, kindness, and respect for each of them, they in turn learn to care for each other and show kindness and respect for their classmates. The teacher sets the tone for the classroom.” – Kelly Benefield

“I think Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.) can help transform a classroom into a community by showing students how to relate to one another. This can stretch beyond the classroom, to the entire school and community! Giving students an opportunity to create an impact that goes beyond the classroom is preparing them for life. It also shows just how far a small act can go. This year, I plan to use Caring Classroom Community through R.A.K.s to build community. And this this blog post further highlights how to do that.” – Sparkle Smiles and Successful Students

“Building community in the classroom shouldn’t be something that stops after the first week of school. Getting to know your students on a personal level (family, friends, interests, likes, dislikes, and more) should continue throughout the year. Finding out about your students can really take little to no time, which is where Take Five {Random Questions to Build Community in Your Classroom} comes in. I’ve put together 90 random questions to ask students when you have an extra five minutes. Kids love to share their thoughts, and we don’t always give them time to say what their favorite food is or what they typically do when they get home from school. Having these questions on hand will help you make a point to get to know your kids.”  – Elementary Lesson Plans

Blair Turner: Teachers Pay Teachers“It’s crucial to cultivate a strong and supportive classroom community, beginning on day one. When students feel comfortable and safe in their environment, they’re able to express themselves, problem-solve effectively, and take healthy learning risks. I just wrote a blog post about five ways to build classroom community in the upper elementary classroom!” – Blair Turner

“We start from the first day with cooperative strategies that require us to work together to understand our classroom expectations. In order to do this, I developed my Classroom Rules: Back to Basics (Explicit Instruction) 5-Day Unit. It integrates cooperative structures and explicit instruction with the introduction of classroom rules. It really gives students a vision for how we can work together to accomplish goals through talking, writing, and staying actively engaged in learning. Included in the unit is a reflection booklet that we revisit each month. Students celebrate past successes and set future goals. It’s really helped my students and I keep our classroom expectations consistent throughout the year in order to build a positive and comfortable classroom environment.” – Wild About Words

“I love using picture books as a way to build a classroom community of learners that share and understand the same background of mentor texts. Here’s a blog post about it.” – Jen Bengel

Teaching MrsT: Teachers Pay Teachers“The absolute best way for me to build classroom community is to use bucket filling. This creates positive peer interaction all year long and is one of the greatest things about my classroom. Here’s the resource: Bucket Filling Classroom Activity Packet. I also encourage a positive classroom community by providing students with Fun Friday time, using my Fun Friday Freebie. Playing together in the classroom allows my students to build friendships with each other.” – Teaching MrsT

“I’ve heard this idea for years, but this year I’m implementing it! Identity is huge in building a community. This year, I’m going to ask for families to bring in a family photo before school starts so that I can place it in the classroom. When my students arrive and see their family photos already there, they’ll hopefully feel like they already belong in our classroom! Children need to have time to get familiar with each other and the teacher. I created Beginning of the Year Writing, Math, Speaking & Listening Printable Activities to help the students and the teacher become a classroom family.” – First Grade Diva Creations

“I think that helping a group of students become a classroom community is one of the most fun things about the beginning of the year! Something I’ve done is have the kids come up with their own classroom rules. I write the rules on large chart paper, have all of the kids sign it, and hang it up in the room. Then during the first few weeks (and throughout the year), if someone is misbehaving, I’ll say something like, ‘That’s not what we agreed upon…’ and point to the poster. That fixes the behavior pretty quickly!” – Ms Lilypad

Fashion Craze Learning Days: Teachers Pay Teachers“I worked on incorporating social and academic vocabulary with my 5th graders this year, as a means of building community. We worked on empathy, integrity, motivation, perseverance, unity, and more. We would discuss one of these words each week. Then we’d talk about where we incorporate this skill into our classroom, and our lives in general. This really made a difference in how my class interacted with each other as the year went on! Here are posters we’d hang up in our morning area for discussion each week: Building Character with Social and Academic Vocabulary – A Weekly Word of Advice. These even became a motto as the year went on. If someone was having a rough day, we would ask ‘Are you showing perseverance?'” – Fashion Craze Learning Days

“Establishing classroom community is about building a family and helping the students and teacher work together and learn in fun, meaningful ways! Take a look at my blog post about creating positive and effective learning environments.” – Elementary Ali

“I wrote a blog post about the importance of building community in the classroom. I believe students should be involved in creating the classroom code (rules/expectations). If the students invest in establishing the code, they’re more likely to own it! My Classroom Rules charts are great because they’ve been stated in a positive frame, and there are plenty from which to choose. Plus, it’s editable!” – The Teacher Gene

Tips for Middle and High School Classrooms

Brain Waves Instruction: Teachers Pay Teachers“In my middle school classroom, we spend the first days of school getting to know each other and building our community. Students complete a survey filled with fun questions, participate in a teacher interview activity where they can win prizes, and produce a classroom craftivity linking what each student brings to the class together. There’s even an assignment for parents (since they’re a pivotal part of our community, too). Each activity is designed to set the tone for a caring and fun learning community that can be developed throughout the school year. Here’s the resource: First Day of School Activities – Building a Classroom Community.” – Brain Waves Instruction

“In my intervention classes, we work hard at the beginning of the year to make it a safe and positive place to learn. We talk about — and practice —  how to treat each other respectfully; and we discuss the impact that words make. We talk about what a growth mindset is and how brains work, which helps so much with motivation! These Neon Motivational Quote Posters are great for the first few weeks of school.” – Mrs Martin Learns

Lindsay Perro: Teachers Pay Teachers“In middle school, students are often far more worried about what their peers think about them than what we are teaching. If they don’t feel comfortable around the other students, they simply won’t perform as well. My students knew first and foremost that I respected them and I expected them to respect others. It was also understood that there was no such thing as a stupid question. Chances are, if they’re wondering about something, another student is, too. Lastly, I moved seats a lot and did a lot of cooperative learning, mixing up the groups each time. By changing my seating arrangement often, it cut down on the ability for students to always be next to their friends and encouraged collaboration with other classmates throughout the year.” – Lindsay Perro

“At one school in which I taught, we had team building activities in every class once a month. We’d play human tic tac toe, classroom battleship, or — my favorite! — students would work together as a group to see how quickly they could pass through a hula hoop while holding onto each others’ hands. It was always so much fun to see students get excited about the activities and encourage one another.” – 4 the Love of Math

“I think it’s important for students to have ownership within the classroom. I come up with jobs that are needed within the classroom (or students can come up with them) and teach them how the job is performed. We practice the jobs as we progress through the first week of school. Once the students understand the jobs, they fill out a job application. Every student gets a job (or two) for the entire year. The students work together to keep the classroom running smoothly.” – TeachingLife

Mr Educator - A Social Studies Professional“How do I create a positive classroom community? It’s simple: We talk. Each voice is heard and opinions are openly shared. We have weekly ‘town-hall’ style meetings where students share experiences on certain topics. Sometimes it turns into a mock of the ‘airing of grievances’ in which students take the role of historical figures. In this way, students participate, laugh, and learn together.” – Mr Educator – A Social Studies Professional

“I try to stay very in tune with my students’ interests outside of my high school biology class. I listen to their music, watch the shows they like, follow sports. (Admittedly it’s easy now that I have teens of my own!) Then I do my best to incorporate their interests into my science lessons. It gets the kids talking and laughing (or groaning!), and makes the class a lot more cohesive. And it’s fun, even for me!” – Strawberry Shake

“I’ve been blogging about my favorite ways to start the year. All of my activities are designed to build a safe classroom in which students feel free to express themselves. I love great discussion and debate, so I work a lot on getting the kids ready to do so when we start the curriculum. Take a look.” – Room 213

Ellen Weber Brain based tasks for upper grades: Teachers Pay Teachers“I use a ‘working memory’ approach to transform regular gatherings into caring yet challenging communities. For example, I exchange typical classroom rules for a speak-up-and-feel-heard approach to creating guidelines collaboratively with students. When they begin to pull together, they become a cohesive and caring team. They activate working memory by becoming the change that many of them crave, and thereby increasing serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. New directions – with student buy-in – fuel the working memory to keep intelligence fluid and even raise IQ as well as extend a wider range of intelligences. It’s the wonderful role working memory plays when you simply do any of the following tasks in this kit:  Manage a Whole Brain Learning Community.” – Ellen Weber Brain based tasks for upper grades

“At the high school level, students are concerned about what everyone else thinks of them so they sometimes don’t want to talk. Therefore, the first thing I do (literally on the first day) is start establishing ‘safe talk’ rules and expectations. My students know from the very start that everyone is expected to contribute to discussions, to be active participants by having all electronic devices put away, and to pay attention to the person speaking. We decide as a class what the consequences are for not meeting the expectations, which translates into them following them better since they had a hand in creating them. ” – Secondary Math Shop

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“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” – Sir James M. Barrie, author

(Thanks to FishScraps for the feature image.)

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