Strategy: Building a Classroom Community

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Building a positive classroom community helps all students feel connected to each other and that they belong. It takes intentional planning and a keen sensitivity to students’ cultures to effectively build a positive classroom community that is inclusive of ALL students. Building this community starts before the first day of school as you make plans for how you will foster a positive and inclusive climate and culture, and it continues throughout the entire school year. You are never done building a classroom community, and sometimes there are setbacks that can require members of even a positive environment to spend some intentional time rebuilding and repairing relationships. It is hard work, but building a classroom community is foundational for academic and social-emotional excellence.
Creating a positive classroom community contributes to stronger academic outcomes and better social-emotional development for students. Students will be more successful when they feel welcomed and like they belong in the classroom. When students receive the message that they matter to the overall productivity of the class, they will be more engaged in the various aspects that make the classroom a community.
How Building a Classroom Community Connects to CARES
It often requires extra and intentional teacher efforts to ensure that students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds feel like they are a part of the classroom community. Sensitivity to students’ cultures is important in creating a classroom climate that is welcoming of all students and all backgrounds. Students and teachers in classrooms with a strong sense of community also have positive and authentic relationships that are foundational for success.
Here are some elements to effectively creating a positive classroom community:
1) Plan intentional activities to foster connection and authentic relationships. Activities should be matched to the particular time of school year. For example, icebreakers and “name games” are effective at the beginning of the school year, while morning meetings or circle time might be appropriate for maintaining community throughout the academic year.
2) Students must be explicitly taught the rules and expectations for the classroom. Once students have mastered the expectations, there is more time for instruction and community-building activities.
3) The teacher must model the positive behaviors and interactions that students are expected to display. Social-emotional coaching (i.e., pointing out to students when they are engaging in prosocial behaviors or managing behaviors effectively), is important in helping students to be their best selves and to be kind to each other.
4) Provide students with opportunities to interact both formally (i.e., turn and talk, cooperative learning) and informally (i.e., games and fun discussion topics) to deepen authentic relationships between peers.
5) Ensure that you plan time to get to know students individually as well. A strong classroom culture is almost impossible without having authentic teacher-student relationships.

How To

Some Tips for Building a Positive Classroom Community
  • Give students roles in the classroom that build on their strengths
  • Develop a class motto
  • Have students complete a community service project together
  • Have students share an artifact from home
  • Include real-life examples from students’ backgrounds in curriculum
  • Explicitly teach desired behaviors:
    • Ask students for input on the class norms and rules
  • Allow students to reflect on their own culture through activities like “Who Am I?” poems
  • Encourage students to take the perspective of others on issues related to instructional content and current events when appropriate
  • Commit to continuous growth and model this for students
    • This creates a safe place for students to make mistakes and learn from them
  • Connect with colleagues and ask for input when experiencing challenges with reaching a student
Strategy Tool
Building a Classroom Community - Strategy Tool
Use the Building a Classroom Community strategy tool to help you identify ways to build community in your classroom.


Building a Classroom Community - Reflection
Take a moment to make sure your plan is going to work.

Goal Setting

Building a Classroom Community - Goal Setting
Use the following form to set your goals for building a positive classroom community.


Concentration Areas: Connection to the Curriculum; Authentic Relationships; Reflective Thinking About Cultural, Racial/Ethnic, and Class Differences; Effective Communication; Sensitivity to Students’ Culture

What is CARES?

CARES is an acronym for the five domains that research has found to be successful in engaging students of culturally diverse backgrounds at school. Each letter refers to a significant element of interaction within the classroom. Applying all five domains of CARES works because it promotes a better understanding of students and ourselves by using strategies that deepen those relationships every day.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All five CARES domains, together with the Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, support one another and need to be applied in the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

Research has shown that each of the five CARES domains has a significant impact on students and their behavior when used regularly and over time. Students who are known and understood by their teachers as individuals in the classroom report deeper connections academically and to their school. When teachers understand their own cultural heritage, they better understand the differences between themselves and their students and report higher levels of mutual respect with students. This also helps teachers to recognize the similarities they share with their students as well as recognize ways in which they are different. Students are more connected and engaged in classrooms where teachers welcome exploration; invite, acknowledge, and celebrate cultural differences; make relevant connections to the curriculum; listen attentively to understand how each student is approaching the concepts; and use humor and other effective communication tools.

Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate

Concentration Areas: Smooth Transitions, Pacing of Instruction, Student Engagement, Clear Expectations, Use of Praise, Use of Reprimands, Level of Disruptive Behavior

What is Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate?

Positive Behavior Supports refers to the proactive ways that teachers work with their students, as well as the ways that teachers respond to challenging situations with students. The focus is on recognizing and affirming student strengths rather than punishing them or taking something away from them. A positive approach to the classroom will promote a classroom climate that is welcoming to all students and is a place where students want to engage with the teacher, each other, and the curriculum. All individuals, students and teachers, and the interactions between and amongst all classroom members play a role in the climate.

There is no single element that works independently of the others. All Positive Behavior Supports & Classroom Climate elements, together with the CARES domains, support one another and need to be applied to the classroom to be successful.

Why is it important?

In a classroom climate that is positive and welcoming to all members, the classroom becomes a safe place where culture and diversity can be openly discussed. A supportive climate is one that promotes student engagement and success. Students feel supported and motivated to be an active member of the classroom community. The teacher taking a positive and proactive approach creates a climate of care and respect and promotes desired student behaviors. This classroom is also a place that provides consistency to students, which is especially important for students who may experience stress and uncertainty outside of the school building. Teachers who have positive and proactive classrooms report fewer disruptive behaviors from their students, an increase in student achievement, and better overall perceptions of school climate.

CARES Overview

Greeting Students at the Door

Using Journals to Build Relationships

Identifying Reinforcers for the Classroom

Using Social and Emotional Coaching

Using Behavior-specific Praise

Using Active Supervision

Using Group Contingencies

Using Precorrection

Teaching Behavior Expectations

Providing Academic Feedback

Increasing Opportunities to Respond

Developing and Using Clear Academic Objectives

Posting and Using a Schedule

Coaching Process – Menu of Options

Coaching Process – Providing Feedback

Coaching Process – Introduction and Overview

Observation Practice 4

Observation Practice 3

Observation Practice 2

Observation Practice 1

Using an Attention Signal

Teaching Classroom Routines

Physical Classroom Structure

Values Card Sort – Example

Card Sort Introduction

Coaching – Interview Guide

Opening the Meeting

Defining and Teaching Classroom Rules

Mrs. James

Miss Faber

Double Check Classroom Check-Up Overview