Whew, what a difference 9 months make! No matter how many times I remind myself and lament with my colleagues, I am still surprised at the beginning of each year at the realization of how much our students change (and learn!) in such a short time.
As I anticipate and excitedly start preparing for my new students each school year, the image of my students back in June must still permeate my memories and expectations.
Wake up call, twelve new little four-year-olds come in September not knowing our routine, how to line up, the difference between names, or how to function in a room with others. This really highlights to me how much the previous classmates learned, grew, and changed!
So, here we go again to water and nurture these precious seeds…
I spend a lot of time strategizing on how to build a community in my classroom. It is a constant goal (and struggle) to create a community in which my students feel genuinely connected to each other, to the teachers, to the environment, and to the processes we explore throughout each day. The NAEYC states:
“Classrooms with a strong sense of community help children feel welcome, secure, and competent. And with security and the feeling of competence, children explore, take risks, form meaningful relationships, and learn “ (p.6).
Because this is a goal of mine to work on ALL year long, not just in the beginning of my school year, I have sought out resources and inspiration on how to build a strong community in the preschool years.
I found this blog and love the way Deborah lists building trust and being genuine as important steps in creating a supportive community in our classrooms. http://www.teachpreschool.org/2013/09/tips-for-building-a-sense-of-community-in-the-preschool-classroom/
Simple things like making eye contact on a child’s level and responding thoughtfully to a child’s efforts are critical in helping students feel comfortable to “put themselves out there”.
How does all this connect to LITERACY you may wonder? The steps I take in building community are crucial steps to prepare the students to take risks, share their thoughts, collaborate, and ask questions: all pre-literacy expectations we have in a preschool classroom!
I will use this blog to share and reflect on some of the ways I am doing this throughout the year because I believe these efforts will help and overlap in our literacy skills as well. It’s an everyday goal and process, but the meaningful lessons I prepare can help support those efforts.
The following activity was used to both help my students learn each other’s names and promote a way for students to share in an engaging experience with one another.
- First, I read Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? By Bonnie Lass and Philimon Sturges. My class loved the repetitive text and mystery of who had taken the cookies. 2. The next day I passed around a cookie jar filled with enough animal cookies for everyone to take one. As each child took a cookie, I started the chant (from the text) “Who took the cookie from the cookie jar?” The child responds with their name and then the class repeats the chant…(see example below).
3. Next, each student completed their own page for a class book by writing their name, gluing their photograph, and drawing a picture of themselves.
4. The compiled class book is already a well-loved (twice accidentally torn) book in our classroom that the students are “reading”it to each other over and over.
I also have noticed that the use of this book has prompted students to engage other children they don’t normally interact with. An example of this is when Addi and Leo were reading the book in the reading corner and announced, “Hey Benji, I’m on your page..come say your part”. Benji, who is most often on the floor with blocks, wandered over and “read” his part of the book. Later that day, I noticed Benji reading the class book at our “book look” time.
Do you create class books with your students that promote community and collaboration? What ideas do you have of books or class-community projects that students love and interact with?
To (finally) conclude this post, I just want to acknowledge that I know building a community is not just a lesson. It doesn’t happen by reading one book about friendship or playing some get-to-know you games. Instead, creating a sense of community is a year-long commitment we make, model, and strengthen on a day by day basis.
So, I am consciously working on these goals ALL year long and incorporating them into everyday, not just the start of school. One experience at a time.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. Cooperative games for preschoolers. Teaching Young Children, 4(2), pp. 6–7. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/tyc/file/ TYC_V4N2_9Xgames.pdf
http://www.kinderlit.com/Kinderlit/Home_files/Where%20Are%20Our%20Cookies%3F.pdf (free template for where are the cookies class book pages)