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The power of connection


By Dawn Armstrong (she/her), teacher, West Vancouver


From Kindergarten to Grade 12 students thrive in the classroom when they feel connected to the teacher and fellow students. When they feel safe to ask a question and advocate for what they need, their confidence, curiosity, and creativity grow. Building a connected classroom also promotes engagement, learning, and adds ease to your classroom management.


School start-up is filled with excitement and energy and can be a good time to implement new strategies and routines. Below are eight strategies for creating a connected classroom community. Building a connected classroom is a career-long process. To make this undertaking more manageable for yourself, offer yourself the ease of picking one new strategy to add to your classroom. Refine that strategy over the months ahead and make that one ritual awesome for this year! And remember, the most important part of building community is consistency.


Hello and goodbye

Greet students at the door and wish them well on their way out. Make eye contact with each and every one of them. You could even add the “How would you like to be greeted?” options seen on viral videos: high five, hug, fist bump, dance-dance!


Thumbs up, middle, down

Check in with students throughout the day. Ask students a question that can be answered with a thumbs up, middle, or thumbs down. Questions could be about progress of an activity, level of understanding, or how they’re feeling.


Gather up

Bring your entire class together, ask them a question, and give everyone an opportunity to share. Ensure they can look each other in the eye: gather in a circle, standing or sitting. Use a timer/bell/stick/rock and give each student 20 seconds to share without interruption. Check out the link to Into the Wild Conversation Cards below for question ideas.


Classroom agreements

Gather up and build a set of five or six agreements/rules with your class. Create specific examples for each agreement. This is an opportune time to use your school’s current code of conduct as a guide.


Move your body

Create movement breaks every 20–30 minutes. Movement breaks can be as simple as hopscotch down the hallway, flapping like you’re going to fly as you go to solve a math problem at the white boards, or stretching at your chair.


Classroom jobs

Give students an opportunity to take responsibility for their learning space by having a role in classroom set-up and clean-up. Assign roles and create rituals for this in your room. Create a board to indicate who is responsible for each task.


There I am

Establish the classroom as a shared community space by representing students in the space and on the walls of the classroom. Display students’ artwork and projects, and have their names on their cubbies and at their desks.


Sound “affects”

Play sounds in your classroom that match the focus you desire from your students. Calm music during work time and welcome time, chimes at transitions, dance tunes for move your body breaks!


Into the Wild Conversation Cards and workshop opportunities can be found at www.intothewildwego.ca.

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