#55 – Connecting Students and Building Classroom Community

Unpacking Education September 1, 2021 24 min

In last week’s podcast episode, we talked about leveraging what we learned from a year of teaching remotely to reimagine education moving forward with our special guest, Danielle Reyes. This week, Danielle joins the team once again to share ideas on how to connect with students to build classroom community in order to accelerate learning this school year.

Don’t be surprised if your students return to the classroom feeling a bit awkward and unsure. After a year filled with changes—many of them daily—it will take time for your students to feel safe, as they have largely been out of the classroom for over a year. Developmentally, this is a significant amount of time, and previous face-to-face routines and expectations may have been forgotten.

In this episode, we share strategies that you can implement to help your students feel supported, meeting them—both physically and figuratively—at the door. By starting the year with intentional relationship building, you are providing your students with the hooks that they need to succeed. Community can take what seems unattainable and make it achievable.

If you are a frequent listener to this podcast, you know that creating connections with students appears as a thread throughout all of our episodes. Numerous times, relationship building has been cited as our “one thing”—or big takeaway—at the end of our episode. Today, we are going to spend time digging deeper into relationship-building strategies and sharing practical and easy-to-implement best practices that you can use with your students this school year.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

What I try to tell young people is that if you come together with a mission, and it’s grounded with love and a sense of community, you can make the impossible possible.

John Lewis, former United States Representative

Developing and Nurturing Community in the Classroom

Teaching is first and foremost about relationships, and it’s the reason that many of us got into the profession. These relationships provide the foundation for nearly everything else that happens in the classroom—from academic achievement to social and emotional well-being. This sense of community and support is essential to the learning experience.

As we know, relationships lead to trust. Trust leads to risk-taking and a growth mindset, and this willingness to stretch leads to learning and further growth. For these reasons and more, it’s essential that we begin establishing relationships and building a positive, trusting classroom community as early in the school year as possible. Whenever you can, include yourself in the activities, so you also become a trusted member of the community.

Technology will continue to provide pedagogical value as we transition back to face-to-face learning. The team and our special guest, Danielle Reyes, share practical tips to support community building for deeper learning this year, including the tech-empowered strategies below.

  • You can be in multiple places. Explore the power of screencasts, which allow you to be in multiple places at one time to meet the diverse needs of the students in your class. Loom (Tips) is a screen recording tool that is free for students and teachers. It’s ideal for creating instructional videos or video messages that can be shared as a link or embedded directly into a learning management system, webpage, or email. Screencasts will help you differentiate your learning objectives based on where each student is at in their learning process.
  • Give students opportunities to share their voice from the outset. For some teachers, this suggestion may seem overwhelming, particularly at the beginning of the year. Yet, if you create activities that invite students to define how their classroom community will look, feel, and function, they will engage in the learning process with you. WeVideo (Tips) is an online video editor that allows users to create, edit, and share video content. Consider having students develop short videos to introduce themselves to their classmates. Leave the instructions open so that both your extroverts and introverts can find an entry point that best suits their personality.
  • Tap into your teacher network. Whether it is your professional learning community at school or your broader professional learning network, lean on your friends! Look for those helpful ideas and resources, such as Danielle’s  Tech-Empowered Teacher blog, that provide tips and tricks to inspire you and help get you started.

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