Tips for building a sense of community in the preschool classroom

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on September 6, 2013

in Bam Radio Series on Early Childhood Education, Tips for Building a Sense of Community

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As a new year begins in preschool, at the top of your list of priorities needs to be building a sense of community in your classroom. Building a sense of community can begin from the very first day and will lead to greater success for each child and the way your classroom functions as a whole…

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Building a Sense of Community in the Preschool Classroom by Teach Preschool

I recently participated in the Bam Radio show titled “Quickly Creating a Sense of Community in the Classroom” along with Rae Pica, Sarah Brown Wessling, Ellen Booth Church, and Joan Young. Our discussion led to a great set of tips that I want to share with you on building community in the preschool classroom but first, take a minute to hop over and take a listen to what this amazing group of ladies have to share with you then be sure to come on back…

Creating Community shared by Teach Preschool

Click the photo to go to the Bam Radio show on Building Community

Creating community

When I use the term “creating community”‘ I am referring to that sense of belonging, of being a member of our team, of being someone we value in our classroom. I am referring to the idea that every child has something amazing to offer and can make a difference in our classroom. I am referring to how the set-up and look of my classroom will make children feel. And I am referring to how I will help my students feel genuinely connected to each other, to the teachers, to the environment, and to the processes we explore throughout each day…

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

The teacher is the environment

But the big question of the day is “how do we create a sense of community?” In the Bam Radio show, Sarah explains that to create a sense of community, we need to actually consider not only our physical space but our “cognitive and emotional space.” Ellen goes on to add that “we want to see warmth and beauty in the classroom” and part of creating a sense of community is to remember that “the teacher is the environment.. the teacher creates that sense of community.”

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Routine

There are many ways the teacher creates that sense of community. Ellen says that it is created through the “predictability of routine.” As children get more familiar with the routine and understand what they can expect to happen and what they are supposed to do in each part of their day, they feel less stress, less chaotic, and will be more emotionally prepared to handle and embrace each part of their day…

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Trust

Ellen shares that building trust is also an important part of building community by doing simple things like “making eye contact and getting down on hands and knees.” Joan says, “What we can do to build trust and help children to feel comfortable putting themselves out there is critical. ”

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Genuine

Young children are extremely perceptive so it is important that you are genuine in all that you do. Be genuine as you are greeting a child at the door or listening to a child’s story about his morning or reading a story to a group of children or praising a child for the efforts he makes to accomplish a task.

  • To be genuine, you must be fully present and engaged and approachable and interested in the things your students say and do.
  • To be genuine, you must be responsive to the needs and interests and questions of your students.

Sarah says that it is important to “really respond carefully and thoughtfully to children’s work.” From the very first writing of a journal entry to a very first painting on an easel be sure to respond carefully and thoughtfully so that your students will get the signal that their work and contributions to the learning process has significance.

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Unity

To help create the emotional and cognitive environment, you can look for ways to personalize your classroom. Ellen suggest “inviting families to send in photos of the children and their family members to post all around the classroom” will give children a sense of unity and help them feel connected to each other.  Personalizing the classroom with children’s artwork and even their names can help to give children that critical sense of belonging.

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Expectations

Slow down and take the time to help your children understand what the expectations are in your classroom. Invite your students to participate in creating a set of expectations to abide by. Sarah offers this idea; “take photos of the kids modeling those expectations and place them throughout the classroom.” The more your students contribute their own ideas for setting expectations, the more responsive they will be in meeting and exceeding those expectations.

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Pause Button

In the midst of children moving about and asking questions and picking up chairs that get knocked over, Ellen says to remember the “Power of the Pause.”  Take a minute to “step back and observe your students.” Take a minute to “appreciate where your students are.” As you learn to hit the pause button and stop to observe and appreciate your students where they are right now in their development, understanding, readiness, or interests then you will be better able to tap into what will reach and motivate and inspire each of your students. And along the way, you will keep a healthier perspective as to what really matters.

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

Creating community is not a lesson, it’s a way of life

Finally, I want to share that creating community is not a lesson, it’s a way of life. Building a sense of caring for each other doesn’t happen by reading one book about friendship. Building a sense of belonging doesn’t happen by playing one game. Having that warmth  and beauty in the classroom doesn’t happen by simply setting up a warm and beautiful environment. Instead, creating a sense of community is a year-long commitment made by you, modeled by you, and strengthened by you on a day by day basis.  As you genuinely and lovingly invite students to be a part of everything you do in the classroom and help them find success, you will find that sense of community starting to come to life and when you do, it will bring you and your students new levels of confidence, joy, and excitement for being together and learning together.

Creating a sense of community by Teach Preschool

 

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Sharing the wonders of early learning in action!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Carey Sullivan September 7, 2013 at 7:31 am

I truly enjoyed this post. We use the concept of a “school family” in our class and school. The idea of a school family comes from Becky Bailey’s Loving Guidance curriculum. We use her ideas in almost every aspect of our day. If you haven’t read her books or heard her speak, I strongly encourage you to do so.

2 Amanda Mason September 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Thanks for this tip Carey. My Mom has Bailey’s book “I Love You Rituals” and I have used a bunch of things from it that are great. I never thought to look up other books by her. I will be reading those soon as well!

Thanks Deborah for the great post on community in the classroom as well. We just started school last week and we are establishing that as well. I find it easy to listen and love my students, the hard part is being completely and totally organized so that I can keep the flow of the classroom running smoothly. I realize that it really helps in creating a comfortable classroom setting. Thanks for the great tips as usual!!

3 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 7, 2013 at 10:20 pm

I too find keeping things organized to be LOTS of work and hard to do but as the children mature, they will start to be more help in this area:)

4 Sandra September 21, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Hi There, I was looking at your October 2012 newsletter for pumpkin ideas and I love them!!! One thing I noticed is that you were using store bought play dough. I was shocked. Do you make play dough with the children now or do you still buy play dough? With all the wonderful hands on activities you do, I was shocked to see store bought play dough. Just wondering.
I make play dough with my children in class every week. I use the three to one ratio recipe with one cup water and paint. I think it’s so much better then store bought.
Thank you for all you do.
Sandra

5 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Haha! So funny what folks find shocking. I say that because I have had others who tell me that they can’t make playdough in their class because they are not allowed to use food products for play! Talk about all over the map as to what folks think on a topic that is so basic.

I have a parent who loves to make playdough for my classroom each month so we are always in supply of homemade playdough and we also make playdough in class about two or three times per year but it is usually scented or textured or has some type of other element for the children to explore and it doesn’t keep very well. Keep in mind that my students are only in class 2 days or 3 days a week from 9 to noon and using that time to make playdough isn’t all that reasonable for us. We make some but there are so many other types of cooking I like to introduce to the children outside of playdough. I also like to give my students lots of colors of playdough on occasion to explore and this is easiest for me by letting them use store bought playdough. I buy about 48 cans of playdough a year and set it out throughout the year for my students to enjoy as well.

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