As the new year begins, one of the most important things we can do to help make it a great year is to build relationships with each child. Without connections and relationships built on trust, our students’ ability to thrive is limited. So how do we bond with our kids to make sure they thrive? In this post, I’ll share my favorite ways to build connections at the beginning of the year.
Best Books for Building a Positive Community
Using Thank You Mr. Falker to build relationships:
There are several books that I really love, but the ones that lead to the best discussions must have themes that help students KNOW that you CARE and that you know they will ACHIEVE. The first title that every teacher in the middle/upper grades needs to use is Thank You Mr. Falker by my all time favorite author, Patricia Polacco. Children must know that you are with them for the long haul just like Patricia’s teacher, Mr. Falker. He supported her just as we support our kids all year long no matter their challenges. Here is the link to the unit.
Use Each Kindness for Community Building:
Another MUST READ is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. This is a great book for developing an inclusive class. In the unit, I included materials for comprehension and discussion including lessons on Theme vs. Main Idea, a lapbook about being kind and developing friendships, and a “Meet Us” class book. It works well at the beginning of the year, but also in February. You can certainly use part of the unit at the beginning of the year and revisit the book in February (and do the lapbook then). You can learn more HERE or in THIS POST.
Build Community and Norms with The Bad Seed:
Finally, The Bad Seed is perfect for goal setting and establishing classroom expectations and community. The story is great for a range of grade levels and tells about how a sunflower seed fails to sprout and grow when it’s cast aside into bad environments. Teachers might use it in conjunction with The Good Egg, a new title by Jory Johns. I think older students understand more of the analogy, but certainly, it’s a story that can span multiple grade levels.
The unit I developed to go with it also includes comprehension materials, a lapbook about goals and expectations, and a writing prompt about “Growing the One and Only Me!”. You can check it out HERE.
Community Building Activities:
Give One, Get One Ice Breaker:
Of course, kids just want to have fun (just like teachers), so on the first few days, team building activities help students get to know each other. One of my favorite get to know you activities is Give One, Get One. It’s so easy to fill in a grid sheet with the descriptors and have students find classmates who….like soccer, play the piano, like to play video games, has read the book ???, likes to take pictures, etc. You can download the Give One, Get One activity I created by clicking the image.
Building a Positive Community Paper Bag Book:
You can also check out THIS POST for a list of community building activities with links to each activity. There are so many fun ways to help kids get to know each other and you.
If you’d like a project for your students, THIS PAPER BAG BOOK is fun and easy to make. It’s great for sparking small group discussion. It includes these activities with guiding questions you can use:
- What Makes Me Special
- My Special Friend, ____
- Our Unique Classroom
- Friendship builders and breakers sort
- Learning about Each Other’s Culture (sharing)
- My Pledge for a Being a Friend
Morning Meetings with Purpose
Building relationships doesn’t stop after the first week of school. It’s important to keep conversations going every day. Morning meetings are a great way to work in discussions AND work in literacy skills. How you might ask? Well, you might share segments of books and discuss them, use social stories for discussion, or use the collection of poems in my Character in the Classroom Poetry Bundle.
Weekly Poems for Working on Classroom Climate:
This series of poems all focus on classroom climate and the social-emotional skills that you’d be working on during morning meetings. Additionally, you can use them to work on fluency skills or tie them to themed literature during your ELA block to extend your lessons. Each poem includes the poem on a single page which you can have students add to a poetry notebook, graphic organizers for group discussion of the theme, a questioning/word study page, and a page for kids to illustrate. A few of the topics include bullying, friendship, sharing, procrastination, respect, handling conflict, digital citizenship, and kindness. Teachers who have purchased the bundle have really enjoyed using them. Here are a few of the comments:
This is a great resource for daily poetry exposure and character education.~Michael
I love using poetry in my classroom and these will be perfect for my morning meeting Character Lessons! Thank you so much! ~Hillary
Of all the things I’ve created for my store, this poetry bundle means the most to me. If you’d like to try a few sample from this bundle, simply sign up for my email list below and the Bloom Where You are Planted set will be shared. It was truly inspired by several special students of mine as well as my own child.
One important note with these resource: As a reader bonus, the code BOGO will save you $5 on a purchase of $10 or more. If you feel like any of these resources would help make your tough job easier, click the link below to visit my shop. Other resources I’d recommend checking out are linked on the home page of my blog or below this post. I wish you and your students THE BEST YEAR EVER!