Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Building Community

I hear laughing, giggles, chuckles, even a guffaw. Standing at the glass door of my classroom, I hold it open  watching students look for their classrooms. Eleventh graders wander and choose their seat at one of our color tables.  Pink, red, orange, yellow, green and purple totes filled with markers, dry erase pens, post its, note cards, and a few fidget toys sit on the small groups' tables. Color-coded name tents emblazoned with our eagle mascot wait for folks to fill in their fours corners: movie recommendation, home town, mother tongue and entrance/exit song. 

We'll use these name tents all year: when we have a substitute, when we switch groups, when I video a lesson. I keep them in a drawer/basket and teach students to take them out and set them up as one of our routines.  I use the four corner annotations to get my first glimpse into students' identities. 

This year I modeled our four corner questions after items our leaders asked faculty to note during the faculty's back to school week. In my block 2 class, students speak English, Korean, Hindi, and Mandarin! They come from the United States, Korea, India, Taiwan, China, and Indonesia. So many rich cultures in our room. 

I'm looking forward to getting to know more about each student: what they know, what they can already do and how their culture will influence the work we do together. To that end, during first week of school I build some sort of inclusion activity or initial assessment into each class. 

Today students completed sentences using these stems. I model a variety of sentence moves on the back with my own sentences. This gives them a start and I enjoy seeing what they can do. I learn a lot from students' responses. 

  • Who spontaneously uses end punctuation?
  • Who shows the most flexibility or fluency with sentence structures? 
  • Who writes general examples? 
  • Who can be the most specific? 
  • Whose voice can I already hear? 

These are some of the things I think about as I respond to students sentence completions. 

Today's community moment was to drop photos onto a slide and then use them to tell 1-2 stories in small groups. I started by telling a story about finding photo four my son's first visit to Nasa, and how that connects to an internship he will start at Blue Origin soon.

Here's B's slide. I love seeing the photos students choose and listening to the first stories they tell one another. Many of these students have known each other in years past. Some have even been in school together since they were four. Still, there is always something to discover, to learn about the person sitting next to you. 

We are going to have a great year together! I already know.


  1. Rich cultures combining to make a rich culture and community - I can sense it! I feel the energy and know you are right - the year is going to be great. I can imagine the brilliant tapestry of words, stories, and ideas already in the weaving.

  2. New starts are always both exhausting and energizing- sounds like you are off to a good one! Your last line: Still, there is always something to discover, to learn about the person sitting next to you really sticks with me!

  3. I loved being a fly on the wall in your joyful, kind, inclusive classroom! And I appreciate your geneosity in sharing the templates of what you did. I love "stealing" great ideas and everything about shared is stealable! Thank you. Your students are so lucky!

  4. I love the bulleted list of things you can learn; they all seem to lead up to the ultimate: voice! What great examples of building a sense of belonging! Thanks for sharing!