On the Importance of Community Building – and a giveaway!

July 19, 2015 36 Comments

Back to School is a time for all sorts of new things.

Our eager learners come to Meet the Teacher Night, hoping against hope that their new teacher will exhibit that most earnestly desired of all descriptors: NICE! Next, they excitedly peruse the list posted outside their new classroom to see what friends (and hopefully, no nemeses) with whom they will share the school year. If their family possesses financial means – and certainly not all of them do, which I try to keep in mind always – they go shopping with their parents, filling carts with sparkly new school supplies and a really cool back-to-school outfit.

And when these brand new students of ours return to our classroom on the first official day of school, we set about the very important task of building a community of learners.

How well we accomplish the process of community building will truly set the stage for the whole year.

But good news, fellow educators: It’s never too late for community building in your classroom. And yes, I am writing from experience!

Because I am here to tell you – not every school year starts as well as those magical years –

Those special years of highly motivated students who all have supportive parents and perfect attendance…

Those years of amazing lesson plans where everything just seemed to click, every concept integrating itself into seamlessly standards-based, engaging, relevant lessons…

Those years of numerous occasions when the principal would walk in just as 95% of my little scholars were experiencing the AHA moment…

Those are the magical years that we love to recall so very fondly.

#REALLIFE ::  Most teachers have at least one year that we relegate to the shadowed hidey-hole recesses of our memory banks, choosing to keep them hidden along with eschewed memories of poor fashion choices, horrific first dates, and that time I was trying so hard to look like Charlie’s Angels-era Farrah Fawcett – simultaneously tossing back my hair and whipping off my snow machine helmet – only to knock my face with my helmet and give myself a bloody nose.

But I digress.

My point is: I believe strongly that building a safe, purposeful, respectful learning community is the single-most important thing we can do for effective instruction in our classroom.

And if it doesn’t happen in the first few days of school, or even in the first weeks or months of school, you can and should bring the whole group together for a fresh start.

I believe also in the importance of being honest, telling my students what I am doing and why I am doing it. It is important that all concerned parties understand how truly important building a community is.

And what better way to learn this than to hear their teacher say, “Hey guys, we need to make sure our classroom is a place where we can all be our best. We need to take some time here to build a community. Who has some thoughts about why having a community of learners is so important in our classroom…?”

And just like that, the conversation has opened.

And in sharing that conversation, the teacher and students have begun to build the community, by the very nature of what that conversation is, and what a community is.

If you have read this far, thank you so much! Please join me at Hello Sunshine Teachers, where Teresa from Confessions of a Teaching Junkie and I have shared lots of activities (and three books!) on this very topic.

To read more about these books and a TON of activities, just click here!

I would love for you to share ways you teach, develop, and celebrate community building in your classroom here in the comments section.   Or better yet, link up to your own blog post about community building!

And while you’re at it,  enter this giveaway to win your choice of The Invisible Boy, Crickwing, or Roxaboxen for your classroom library:

Click here to enter the Book Giveaway!

Happy Back to School!

Hedgehog Reader

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  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Roxaboxen sounds like a very intriguing story.

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      It really is, Jane – it's so imaginative! Thank you for commenting! :o)

  • Jessica Zannini July 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    What a great post! I can remember every class that I would like to forget. Those classes taught me a lot about creating a better community. With the beginning of the school year coming, this is a great thing to think about. Thank you so much for sharing this! All of the books sound great, but I would choose The Invisible Boy!


    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Jessica, you are so right! Those years I'd rather forget were so valuable because they made me think up solutions! Thank you for commenting! (And The Invisible Boy is SUCH a sweet book!) :o)

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I've always wanted to read The Invisible Boy, so that's my pick!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      That is a very good pick indeed! (I puffy heart love The Invisible Boy!!!)
      Thanks for visiting, Carrie! xo

  • Karla Heleotes July 20, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I really like all three books! But, I think The Invisible Boy sounds like it might speak to many of our students- so I would pick that one!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      It really is a special book, Karla – thank you for commenting! xo

  • Sara Kovach / Dare to be Different - Teach! July 20, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    The Invisible Boy sounds wonderful. I read Roxaboxen every year – that is a great one. Community building is so very important.

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      I agree, Sara! Community building truly is the foundation for the year. And yes, The Invisible Boy and Roxaboxen are both such good books!

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Great post!! I would be so happy with any book! They're all so special. 🙂

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 4:50 pm

      Thank you for visiting, Marine! And you really can't go wrong with any of the three books! xo

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    The Invisible Boy sounds like a great way to teach community. I have not read any of the books…. so any of the them would be great!!
    Tales of Teaching with Tech

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Thanks for commenting, Sarah! The Invisible Boy is awesome, and all three are favorites of mine for different reasons! xo

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    The invisible boy sounds like a good book! I've never heard of it.

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      The Invisible Boy is rather a hidden gem – I'm glad I could bring it to your attention because I love it so much!
      Thanks for commenting, Caroline! xo

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I think I would pick Crickwing as it aligns with our Steps To Respect and Olweus programs.

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      That is such a great choice, Linda – Crickwing offers so many opportunities for valuable discussions –
      Thank you for visiting! xo

  • Lidia M July 20, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    This is such a great post and good reminder of how important it is to have a good community. This is extremely important for students to feel this or else they just might tune out. I'm not actuslly currently in the classroom so I'd rather someone who is teaching this year win one of these wonderful books!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks for your very kind reply, Lidia –
      and if you win the drawing, I would love for you to pick a book anyway and then, if you prefer, just share it with a friend who is in the classroom! xo Pam

  • jivey July 20, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    Out of all the books I have read and own (and that's A LOT), I've never read The Invisible Boy! I love finding new community building books!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Oh how fun to introduce a book to a fellow book lover!!! I truly do love The Invisible Boy for so many reasons – it's definitely worth a read 🙂
      And by the way, Jivey, I learned so much at your session at TpTVegas15 –
      Thank you for visiting! xo Pam

  • Unknown July 20, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Such a great post on the importance of building community not just at the beginning of the school year, but all year long. I think it's easy to gloss over this as there's always something else to do, but establishing a positive, supportive environment from the start will alleviate so many issues later down the road. I have never read The Invisible Boy, but would love to!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 6:46 pm

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Jennifer!
      (And I can't say enough good things about The Invisible Boy!)
      xo Pam

  • Amy Beckstrand July 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Hi Pam! I enjoyed meeting you at the Make a Splash Bash. I am Ashlyn's friend from Utah. Great blog post! I agree, it is so important to build a classroom community. I LOVE the book Roxaboxen. A classmate shared it with our class when I was in school, but I haven't seen it since then. I would love to own a copy!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 20, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      Hi Amy! I enjoyed meeting you as well – that was so much fun, wasn't it? – and thank you very much for visiting my blog!
      Roxaboxen is a huge "thumbs up" –
      it's so authentically reflective of childhood imagination!
      xo Pam

  • Jacqueline July 20, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    Love this! I just shared on my fb page: https://www.facebook.com/Littleladybugshoptpt?fref=nf

    • Hedgehog Reader July 21, 2015 at 2:07 am

      That was so sweet of you to share, Jacqueline – Thank you!
      And thank you for stopping by, too! xo Pam

  • lnewbigging July 20, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Great post! I love and use Crickwing and The Invisible Boy, but haven't heard of Roxaboxen so yay for another book to check out! I agree that community building is so so important! TFS!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 21, 2015 at 2:08 am

      Roxaboxen is so good too – I think you'll enjoy it!
      Thanks for visiting! xo Pam

  • Sarah Frias July 20, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks for sharing! Roxaboxen sounds like a good story to start with!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 21, 2015 at 2:09 am

      It really is so good!
      Thank you for commenting, Sarah!
      xo Pam

  • Belinda Anderson July 20, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you for the share. I love how you are passionate about building a community of learners! That community is vital to the success of school. I am going to check these books out! Thanks so much for your willingness to share!

    • Hedgehog Reader July 21, 2015 at 2:10 am

      You are very welcome, Belinda –
      And thank you for leaving such a nice comment!
      xo Pam

  • Nicole P July 21, 2015 at 3:11 am

    I already have The Invisible Boy and love it! I'd love to read Roxaboxen. 🙂 Thanks for offering such a kind giveaway.

    • Hedgehog Reader July 21, 2015 at 5:15 am

      You're very welcome, Nicole!
      Thank you for commenting!
      xo Pam

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    I teach 5th Grade Gifted children in sunny Arizona. I love to learn, to read and write, and to nurture kind, creative, and effective classrooms! Please join me as I share children's literature, inspirational teaching ideas, and other things that are close to my heart. Read More



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