Monday, June 29, 2009

Classroom Community Building Reflection

As the semester winds down, I am hoping to make some more posts on some of my thoughts over the last five months.  My goal for next year (once I secure a job, as this was a temporary position) is to post more frequently throughout the school year.

In the run up to the 2008-2009 school year I posted on the importance of classroom community building, how it relates to my philosophy of education, and some suggested lessons for a classroom community building unit.

In January, I took over the instruction for a collection of students who were in slightly large Language Arts 9 classes.  Since these freshmen came from different classrooms, it was a good opportunity to test some of these lessons.  Overall, in my two sections, I had very different results.  Some factors involved are the mix of students and the time of day these students had class.

My morning class had some fairly significant successes.  One particularly shy student who was new to the school was dragged into the classroom grid activity by a girl particularly selective of her friends.  Students who I hadn't seen speaking together in other classes were soon sitting next to each other in class.  The cliques were still visible, but there was less criticism, I believe.

My afternoon class from the start believed I was treating them like they were in elementary school.  When they did the classroom grid activity, they did what I explicitly asked them not to do: ask each other which box they are instead of asking questions about the person to eliminate boxes.  During the Two Truths and a Lie game, I was the individual asking the most questions. 

Some students from this class expalined that they already knew each other since this was a rural community, they had been going to school with the same classmates since elementary school.  That's fair enough, but it didn't explain why the other two classes found it worthwhile enough for their time.  And it did benefit the home schooled student who returned to public school this year as a high school freshman.

So there needs to be a way to establish student buy-in and relevancy (as with everything else in a classroom).  As a general rule, I've noticed the more I actually talk about educational theory with my students, the more willing they are to go along with some things.  Like when I told them that free-writing is actually scientifically proven to make them better writers, it didn't seem so "stupid" any more.

And one can always question how much students are honestly disenchanted as opposed to just being teenagers; how much they really hate what you're doing and how much of it is just to be cool and not like what's going on in class.  On the year-end class evaluation, one of my students wrote this in regards to classroom community building:
I think that you should continue doing the name game and the two truths and a lie game because those games really helped me learn the names of the students in the class.
If that's all it takes for someone to learn the two most important words for any student, that comment is enough evidence for me to do it next year.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Overheard in my class before school today:

Student 1: "You know what's really strange?  When you're in a reading class that's supposed to teach you how to read and the teacher tells you to stop reading!  I don't get that."

Student 2: "Yeah, but it's usually because they want you reading their material."