Today was the first day where all students were back at school. I had my first lesson with most of my classes today. I never launch into content in the first day. I like to get to know my students first. This year however I want to go further than that and kick off the year by allowing my students to get to know each other as learners. Many of my students know each other socially, but not how they like to learn.
While I don’t have any hard data, I’ve always had the inkling that high student achievement not only depends on individual students, but how the whole class works as a group. My higher-performing classes are where individual students apply themselves more but they also get along with each other and help each other. These classes have a sense of community. Each student has a sense of belonging. They work as a team. I want this for all my classes by design, not by random luck.
So this year I used the first lesson to kick start the establishment of a class community. Students did two activities: (1) Getting to know you as a learner in 3-2-1 and (2) My perfect classroom to learn in …
Getting to know you as a learner in 3-2-1
Students paired up and interviewed each other on 3 of their favourite things about science, 2 things they find hard about science and 1 thing they want the teacher to know to help them learn the best that they can.
For larger classes, I asked some students to share their responses and then collected their interview sheets to look at later. For smaller classes, all students shared their responses and they were tallied so that students can see what they have in common with other students in terms of learning. Here’s an example from my Year 11 Senior Science class.
My perfect classroom to learn in …
This activity is used to establish classroom expectations where all students get a say. In pairs students brainstorm what their perfect classroom is like. In their perfect classroom what are they doing as students? What are other students doing? What is the teacher doing? All responses are collated on the board and classroom expectations are established.
I know some teachers will think this is a ‘soft’ approach and that I should lay down the law instead and let students know who is boss. But I much prefer this way. I really want to focus on developing positive learning relationships amongst students as I strongly believe this will lead to better learning and achievement.
Far from a soft approach Alice. In fact you have laid down the law – respect and responsibility – you have established within your class that you respect them as learners and want the best for them and so should their peers! This is a team effort – a positive learning environment.
Great, practical post Alice, thanks! I’ve just shared this with the the Teach.NSW scholarship group who are beginning their teaching careers this week.
Hi Alice I subscribe to your blog. i think this is perfect . Relationships are everything have another fantastic year Keep blogging
Ms J. T. Barnier Principal Kellyville High School Learning | Excellence | Integrity
I agree. It is basically all about relationship and community building. When the students feel part of something the learning, sharing and opportunities for growth are endless.
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