Classroom Community-Building Activities for Elementary Students

Community Building Shout Outs

A little classroom camaraderie delivers big benefits. But community isn't built in a day. Students need experience working with classmates toward shared goals, trying (and sometimes failing) together, building bonds, and settling conflicts along the way. With these opportunities, students are sure to become invested in class and feel that their voice matters.

Building Classroom Community Lesson Plans

Ready to help your kiddos develop meaningful relationships and connect with their classmates? Try these classroom community-building activities for elementary students.

Spark Classroom Conversations

Here’s a good relationship-building exercise that will help students get to know one another at a deeper level, beyond their likes and dislikes. Display one of the five Discussion Starter cards below. Set a timer for up to five minutes, depending on your students’ age and attention span. Then have students pair up to share their responses to the question on the card. When the timer goes off, display another Discussion Starter, and have students talk it over with new partners. Alternatively, you could display all the cards and allow the student pairs to choose which questions they’re most interested in tackling.

Print the Discussion Starter cards, laminate them, and keep them in a center for students to use all year long. You might also provide index cards for students to come up with their own Discussion Starters to add to the class collection. These quick, but meaningful conversations will help students feel more connected and better-equipped to achieve shared goals, whether that’s a group project or a whole-class reward.

"Flex on Them" Fridays

Here's a community-building activity from fourth grade teacher Perry Hollins. He hosts "Flex on Them" Fridays, where students get to do a little bragging about their unique skills. Maybe the student is an awesome photographer, dancer, meme creator, or can really belt out a tune. Friday is their day to showcase their awe-inspiring talents.

Allow time for students to ask each other questions like: How did you get so good at _______? or Do you have any tips for those who'd like to try _______? "If you don't have a community where students feel like they can open up their mic and have conversations with one another, with me present or not, and in a healthy and constructive way, then I'm not really doing much of anything because that is really the point I believe of education," Hollins says. Listen to the whole conversation with Hollins on our Teachers in America podcast. Plus, he shares six of his top strategies for building community in the classroom in this blog post.

Give a Shout-Out

Encourage students to find the best in each other. Provide a public space for them to compliment one another and celebrate your class’s awesomeness. You might use a bulletin board in the classroom, or try Google Jamboard for a digital experience. Fourth-grade teacher Joanne Miller's Shout-Out board is posted on the classroom door where passersby can see it. Students write their praise for classmates on colorful Post-It notes and attach them to the board. Remind students to include the classmate’s name in the note. They might praise a classmate’s willingness to explain an assignment, help clean up after completing a project, or simply for being a good friend. Get more of Miller's community-building lesson plans and other ideas for the classroom on her website, Head Over Heels for Teaching.

Community Building Shout Outs
A shout-out bulletin board is a great way to build classroom community while celebrating your students' awesomeness. (Courtesy Joanne Miller)

Eyes on the Prize

Think of a whole-class reward—such as a dance party, movie day, no homework for a week, or free time on Friday—you’d like your class to work toward. (Here are ideas for virtual rewards for students.) Then make a list of goals for them to achieve to earn the reward. A goal might be making quick transitions between subjects or following rules of polite discussion. Write each goal on a separate Post-It note. Then, write the reward in big letters on a white board, chart paper, or the like. Cover it with the Post-It note goals. Every time the class achieves one of the goals, remove the related Post-It to reveal the class reward a little at a time.

Community Building Whole Class Reward
Students will have a great time following the rules while working toward a mystery class reward like a dance party or no homework for a week. (Courtesy Chris Cocek)

Start a Class Newsletter

A class newsletter is a great way of connecting the classroom with parents, administrators, and the community. Creating the newsletter fosters collaboration as students work together to produce a variety of news items to keep readers informed on the latest classroom happenings. The process can also give students a sense of pride in their classroom. Here are steps you can take to get started:

  • Decide how often you want the newsletter to go out.
  • Come up with departments such as Classroom Corner, Class Wish List, Upcoming Events, Student Spotlight, or Fun Photos.
  • Assign students' jobs, such as writer, editor, proofreader, designer, photographer. These roles can change with every newsletter.
  • Choose a template, such as these free classroom newsletter templates from Canva.

Don't stop there. Give those future designers in your classroom a challenge. Have them take these steps to design a newsletter that truly shines.

Do Something Kind

Ask older elementary students to research community organizations, nonprofits, and charities, such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and Goodwill. Take a class poll to decide which group the class would like to help. (For younger students, simply choose the organization.) Then brainstorm ways to help. Record ideas on a white board, Google Jamboard, or in a place where the entire class can view them. Students might suggest making cards for children in the hospital, collecting canned goods for a local soup kitchen, or donating clothes or toys to Goodwill. (Here are more volunteering activities for students.) However they choose to help, start by having students set a goal. How many cards will they make? How many cans would they like to donate? Write down the goal on chart paper and create a graph that you can update every day to show the class working toward its goal, or track progress virtually using a free app like Strides.

More Classroom Community Building Activities

A positive classroom community is crucial to student success in school and life. What strategies do you use to ensure that students feel connected to one another and invested in classroom goals? Share your ideas with us! Reach out on Twitter (@HMHCo) or email us at Shaped@hmhco.com.

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