Community building often happens in the first few days of the semester, but after attending a faculty development session last week, it became clear to me, that I need to continue to build the course’s community over the entire semester. This workshop provided me with a few take-aways to help with sustaining my course’s community.
At the beginning of class, have the students go around the room (including yourself) and say one word that represents how they’re feeling. This is a great strategy to check in with the students about their feelings for being in class at that moment. This strategy can also be used to check in with students about the content or an assignment. Another way to use this strategy is to have the students rate how they are feeling on a scale that you provide. At the end of class, you could also repeat the activity. This provides one more opportunity to check in with the student, and it also allows every student to share.
Wash over questions
As the students are working on an in-class assignment or in groups, write down questions they’re asking each other in their groups. Before you read the questions, tell the students that they are to just listen and let the questions “wash over” them as they’re read aloud. This allows the students to hear ideas that were shared and possibly explored in their groups. You could also switch up this strategy by writing down statements or observations you heard and then share those. When you read these questions, statements, or observations, you’re providing all of your students with a voice, and you’re allowing them to hear each other’s thoughts, ideas, and insights.
Gratitude Exit Slip
The final community sustaining activity that I learned about is called gratitude exit slip. The purpose of this activity is to allow students to share their gratitude for each other. Give each student a notecard. On the notecard, they are to write and share who they are grateful for in class and why. The notecard is a way for students to describe a time when someone in their course helped during the lesson or class day. The students hand in the notecards to you as they leave the class. You’ll get a sense of who helps in class and you’ll provide opportunities for reflection. To help sustain the community even more, you could email the entire list of gratitude out to the class so they can see all of the good happening.
Let me know if you try any of the strategies and how they work for you and your course. Feel free to comment below if you have any additional community sustaining activities.