Building Strong Foundations

News from the 1st Grade classroom

August 28, 2021

We’ve had a great start to the year in K,1 and 2.  Students were excited and ready to be back and to explore not only their new classrooms but the school in general.  Here is a quick glimpses of how we all started to build a positive learning community.

PNA utilizes Responsive Classroom as our Social Emotional Learning curriculum.  While there are many pieces to Responsive Classroom, one of the most important is the discussion of student “hopes & dreams” and the resulting collaborative creation of class rules and guidelines.  Developing classroom rules is an integral part of building a strong classroom community. Having students create guidelines through direct participation helps them feel valued and gives them a better understanding of the classroom behavioral expectations. Even across the grade levels and age ranges, this process looks very similar.

The Kindergarten class process began with a group discussion about why rules are important. After the discussion, the students partnered up to brainstorm ideas about what rules would create the ideal classroom environment. As they grouped back together to share ideas, there was a sense of pride and ownership beaming from the students as they described these ideas to their classmates. These feelings carried on as they finished composing their list of rules.

The first graders began with the question, “Why do kids go to school?”  They agreed that they go to school, “to practice,” “to make friends,” and  “because it is good for you.” After discussing why they go to school, students reflected on what they hope to do this school year. This year, many first graders hope to learn harder math, read, and make lots of friends. Each student wrote their own individual hope for the year on a strip of paper and made it special by decorating it with beads. To be successful in accomplishing their hope for this year, they helped come up with our class guidelines, which they wanted to call “class rules.” Their signed rules and beautiful hopes & dreams are now displayed in the classroom to remind them why they go to school and follow the class rules.

After discussing what their individual goals for the school year, second grade student reflected on what teacher and student jobs are in the classroom.  They then independently brainstormed some rules and guidelines that were important to them and would allow for an environment in which students could work towards their goals and have a wonderful learning experience.  The next step was to sort their ideas into categories.  From there, the students decided that some of the guidelines could be combined into one and others needed to remain by themselves.  Once everyone was happy with the guidelines, they were written on a “sun” poster and students signed them, signifying that everyone would try their best to uphold the class guidelines this year.

These collaborative exercises provided the students with an opportunity to voice their opinions and take control of their own learning. This process also allowed the students to take part in creating a positive, classroom learning environment tailored to their individual needs.  The foundation has been laid for a supportive community for the year in which everyone is valued.