Building a Classroom Community from Day 1

I am very passionate about building a classroom community, or classroom family, that is tight-knit, supportive, respectful, honest, collaborative, and loving. Not only does it help when it comes to classroom management, but it also makes our classroom feel safe. Building a community of learners in the classroom gives students a home away from home where they can be their true selves, learn from others, and take ownership of their learning

It can prove difficult to get to that point of a strong classroom community though. Our students come to us as strangers...some may be friends, others may not. We get a smorgasbord of cultures and personalities, and it is our task to bring our learners together. The important thing, even though it may be difficult, is to start building a community in the classroom from day 1. And, I have several ways you can do that.

Building a Classroom Community with Morning Meeting


I LOVE Morning Meeting!! It makes me so happy to start each day together in a circle getting to know each other better and growing together. We collaborate, laugh, learn manners, and have discussions about important topics. I love including social-emotional learning into my Morning Meeting too- talking about character traits and strategies to help us through tough situations. This is one of my favorite ways for building classroom community in elementary school and middle school.

The Impact of Morning Meeting

You may be thinking, “Why do I need to take time out of our already limited schedule for a classroom meeting?” Not only does a classroom meeting (it doesn’t have to be in the morning!) build a sense of community in the classroom, but it also:
  • Teaches students to use manners when speaking and listening to one another.
  • Gives a safe space for students to share what’s on their hearts, no matter if it is big or small.
  • Encourages collaboration, teamwork, and more as they learn to work together and communicate.
  • Leaves room for social-emotional learning

Morning Meeting Key Components

The Responsive Classroom model of Morning Meeting has four components: Greeting, Share, Activity, and Message. I believe that they are all very important, and I try to include all four in my classroom meetings every day. They don’t have to be very long- my Morning Meeting structure usually looks like this:

  • Greeting: 5 minutes (teaches manners, respect, and speaking & listening skills)
  • Share: 5 minutes (works on speaking/listening skills, storytelling, and empathy towards others)
  • Activity: 10 minutes (encourages collaboration, team work, problem-solving, and having fun!)
  • Message: 10 minutes (can incorporate character education, academic concepts, and a preview of the day)

If you struggle coming up with fresh Morning Meeting ideas, or just need help jump-starting your Morning Meetings, check out my Pinterest board that I’ve curated just for you!! It’s broken up into grade levels, so you can find what works for you! Click on the picture or HERE to browse the board!

Building a Classroom Community with Mentor Texts

Mentor texts can be so helpful when teaching students how to respect, accept, appreciate, care for, and love one another. No matter the age of your students, you can find mentor texts for what you need. I use them throughout the year to help me mentor my students and help the all-important Social-Emotional Learning “click”.

Mentor texts are usually picture books that carry a certain theme and provide a jumping off point for fantastic discussions. They can be used to teach an academic standard, but I personally use them most for social-emotional learning and character education. There are character traits mentor texts on everything from friendship and kindness to self-control and responsibility. Here are a few of my favorites! (You can click the titles or pictures to get them on Amazon. I use affiliate links but it doesn’t cost you any extra and it helps me out a bit!)

What if Everybody Did That? is a great book to discuss the importance of rules in life, and in the classroom. During and after reading, you can discuss what would happen if everybody did different actions or didn’t follow the rules. It’s important to discuss that we have consequences for our actions, no matter what they are, and how we should think before we do something. I definitely recommend reading this one during the first weeks of school!

The Invisible Boy is one of my favorite picture books of all time. It makes me tear up each time I read it. It’s a story of friendship and accepting each other no matter how we look or act, and how important that is. I love the message through the illustrations too. It’s a must-read!

A Flicker of Hope is a hopeful story that gives several ways to ask for help when someone needs it. It’s an important story to share for the times when students may feel down, depressed, or need help in any way. It also builds our hope and shares how you can be a hope builder too!

Jabari Jumps is an awesome book about perseverance, determination, and courage. It would be great for testing season or any time students need a boost of confidence!! I love the beautiful story of Jabari!

Building a Classroom Community with Student Ownership

At the beginning of the school year, it is so important to guide your students in setting goals. There are many ways to do this- with journals, setting one single goal at a time, etc. But the important thing is to teach them how to set a goal that is (1) achievable and (2) measurable. That way they can reach their goals and set bigger ones!!

Goal-setting with your students helps them take ownership of their learning. If they know the goal they have, and are reminded of it, they are motivated to reach it themselves, and you can be there to encourage them as well. Checking in with students throughout the year, individually or in small groups, is a key factor for success too!

I love using Levels of Understanding to also help students take ownership of their learning. They can be used as a self check-in, after a small or whole group lesson, or they could even write their level on the top of their work after they finish! The Levels help you as a teacher see where your students are at, and who may need some reteaching. But they also help your students think about their learning and how well they understand concepts. This teaches them how to self-regulate and when to ask for help.

My friend Danielle shares all about how she gives her students ownership by creating a student-centered classroom. I love this idea, and I agree that it's so important that your students feel a part of your classroom community!

Classroom Jobs also help build a positive classroom community and ownership, as we all have a job to do to help our classroom. I prefer to use Team Jobs, as they tend to make things simpler for all of us. Students in teams can help each other remember to do their jobs, and after a couple of months, you just have to switch six teams versus 20+ jobs!

Building a Classroom Community with Consistency

Something that I have learned in my five years of teaching is how important consistency is to our students and classroom atmosphere. My first year teaching I was NOT consistent, and I could tell, because my classroom community was a MESS all year! My students did not respect me or each other very well. I struggled managing my classroom. We had fun, but it definitely could have been so much better!

Megan has so many awesome Classroom Management techniques that would have saved me much heartache and stress my first year of teaching. She simplifies it for you and helps you start your school year on the right foot!

I love this Classroom Management idea from Jessica! I used it when I taught Kindergarten and Fourth Grade, and it works so well!!

Leslie has all kinds of tips and helpful information for you in this Behavior Management post! She has great ideas on how to start the school year off right and become a behavior management PRO!

Building a caring classroom community from Day 1 is crucial for a close-knit classroom that respects, loves, and encourages one another! I hope these ideas and tips help you make this year the best yet!! Please pin this image to save it for later and share it with your friends!


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