As we look forward to a new school year, it is key to find ways to build strong classroom communities. A common concern I hear from teachers is how students have been disconnected from each other. With masks and having to social distance, our students will need a little more direction than other years on how to be a part of a classroom community. You can support a strong classroom community with the use of class meetings. There are many benefits to having class meetings! One of my favorite benefits is how easily class meetings strengthen a classroom community.
Are you new to class meetings? Class meetings are usually done at the beginning of your school day. It is a way for the teacher and students to come together, while the activities may vary, the main goal is to help support students' social and emotional needs and with relationship building. Ultimately creating a safe, effective environment for learning.
I'm excited to share with you what I've see class meetings can do!
#1 Develop Healthy Relationships
Building healthy relationships is my favorite benefit of how class meetings strengthen classroom communities! Students' social and emotional needs are being met through class meetings when they are given time to learn and practice the skills needed to interact with others. Each morning starts with a greeting. Students practice speaking kindly to each other. Accepting friends' answers/thoughts and then sharing their own thoughts. Simple skills such as asking a friend about their day or their weekend are valuable in developing healthy relationships. But beyond that, students also get to practice disagreeing with others and honoring their differences.
#2 Team Mindset
During class meetings, students are continually sharing about themselves, their experiences, opinions, and ideas. It's fun to see students building relationships in the classroom after learning new things about each other. Friendships form more quickly and students are more likely to be inclusive with each other. Beyond friendships, empathy for each other is built too. With time, the dynamic of the classroom feels more like a team!
Some class meetings are designed to have students work together on an activity. And there is no better way to promote teamwork than to have a common goal! My students really came together when we began doing class meetings. They become each others cheerleaders by encouraging each other. This team mindset forms a sense of belonging and a bond with each other.
#3 Safe and Comfortable Environment
Another way that team meetings strengthen classroom communities is that they create a safe and comfortable classroom! Along those same lines, class meetings promote an environment in which students feel safe and comfortable with each other. By creating connected classrooms, you promote an environment of openness and sharing. Students become comfortable with each other more quickly and the benefits trickle into other parts of your day.
For example, a student might be more willing to come to the front of the class to show how he/she solved a math problem. Taking academic risks doesn't feel threatening. The fear of being judged or teased is removed and real learning can take place!
Another benefit of feeling safe, is when students feel comfortable speaking their minds and sharingtheir beliefs. If there are differing opinions, students listen, share viewpoints and learn to be respectful of different opinions.
#4 Students Have a Voice
During class meetings, students quickly learn that they have a voice! What they say matters and is valued including their opinions! During class meetings, I like to give students opportunities to help me decide how the day should go. (This doesn't happen all of the time, of course, but when it does, the students love it.) I suggest starting simple, for example, voting on the PE activity for the day, the read-aloud book, or how much time to spend on completing a project.
To me, implementing class meetings is one of the most important things you can do in your classroom. It not only teaches important skills that your students will use now but also skills they’ll use forever. I have seen class meetings be life-changing for every type of student in my classroom, from the shyest to the most outgoing student. So, give class meetings a try and you will find that you and your students can create a strong classroom community.