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11 Ways to Rescue (or Start) a Secondary Classroom Library


Does your classroom library need a makeover? (Or, do you still need to make one?)

(*Be sure to SCROLL DOWN to enter the $50 gift card giveaway and add to YOUR library!*)

Dealing with a classroom library CAN feel like one more project that you don't have time for, especially if you're short on funds or unsure if students will appreciate it. (Plus, if you teach a specialized course like British Lit or Speech, maybe you're not sure if your classroom - or curriculum - need one.)

However, we teachers know that the rate of choice reading tends to drop dramatically in the high school years, and we are the last guardians of reading who can help teens realize that they can read well, can read for fun, and can make time for reading after all. A classroom library isn't just a book case; it's symbolic of the life we want our students to lead. 

Fortunately, improving (or starting) yours can happen after one small change rather than a massive overhaul as you might fear.

Here are 11 tried-and-true ways to give your bookshelves a boost in an English class for teens or tweens. 

FREE: Classroom Library Starter Sheets!
Click here to get several checklists and forms that are referenced in the list below and will help you get started!



1. Partner with the book store(s)
Not all books need to be purchased with your money. During student teaching, my classroom didn't have a class library. Fortunately, the local Half Price Books store was willing to do a book drive for me; I could make a table of requested books and see in a given timeframe if store patrons would buy any for us. Though you might have more luck with smaller stores/chains than bigger ones, you never know who might say yes!

2. Assign a classroom "librarian"
Either assign a student helper, or get weekly volunteers, to keep the library in check (so you don't have to). This person can fix messy shelves, do a book talk, or update whatever routines/displays you have in place. The double bonus is that you have less to do, and the students feel increased ownership of the space.

3. Shuffle the books once per week
Depending on how you're storing/shelving them, "fluff" the books once a week and shuffle them so that new covers are visible in the front, at the ends, or in the displays. Doing this will keep books from getting out of sight and mind, and it will also help the space look like it's seeing activity (and not some outdated zone).

4. Make permanent peer recommendations
No offense to book talks (which I love), but I like to use this FREE template to make peer nominations that will last longer. If they rate books by metrics they care about, students can more independently choose the right books for them.

5. Student AND teacher book talks
I'm decent at giving book talks, so the titles I pitch to students typically see an uptick in momentum, BUT a peer-given book talk can be infinitely more powerful. Make sure you're not the only one recommending books in your room, and you won't be sorry about the time you spent doing it. (PS - why not use that book talk as a public speaking grade? Find out more about that here.)

6. Color code books and shelves
This is single-handedly the most important change I made to my classroom library: using skinny duct tape to color code books and their bins by genre. (See photo below.) Now, my students know where to find certain books, where to put them BACK (!), and how to browse more efficiently.



7. Give students time to use it
I get it - depending on your curriculum and schedule, you might have less-than-zero time to give students for free reading, book talks, or browsing the library. BUT, you can remind teens during their in-class work time on OTHER tasks that "Now would be a smart time to use the classroom library if you need it!"

8. Elicit student requests and "dibs"
Print the FREE starter sheets above, stick them on clipboards, and start getting student input on what books they think you should buy, which books they want to read next (and want "dibs" on when it's available next), and which student currently has which book. (I've tried more complex check-out systems, but as far as simple paper ones go, this form is my favorite!)

9. Make easy, eye-catching displays
No, we're not in elementary school anymore, BUT you want the library space to be visually appealing "enough" that students are drawn to it like moths to a flame. The more their eyes and bodies linger by books, the better, right? Evaluate the amount of wall or shelf space you have, and then ask if you need a consistent color theme, student-made posters, teacher-bought posters, book recommendations, books on spinning shelves, or other eye candy in your space.

(Want more inspiration? Check out my Pinterest board of classroom library ideas!)

10. Be honest about why "traffic" is low
Not seeing a lot of student traffic by your bookshelves? Be honest about why. Is it because they don't like reading or have motivation issues? Do they not have a choice reading requirement, and thus don't HAVE time or MAKE time to read? Do they dislike the space or the books? Don't have enough given in-class time to peruse it?

If you are honest with each other about the reason(s) why, you can problem-solve more easily and save some frustration about why your hard work isn't seeing student appreciation.

11. Assess a choice novel
Even without a full-blown independent reading program, your standards or curriculum most likely CAN justify assigning a choice novel/text. 

Whether it's once per month, quarter, semester, or year, requiring a choice novel will help your library see more action (and help your readers try new things).

If you need a starting point, you can get either a free version or an editable version of my Response to Literature flipbook here


The Bottom Line
Many of us became English teachers to help students close gaps and love the written word for the long term, not just in the 45 minutes or so that we have those students in class. Having a classroom library that works - and doesn't just looks pretty - is a huge asset toward that goal, one that is totally within your reach.

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

Cheers, 
Sara

5 Ways to Inspire Your Writers



Sometimes our students need a little nudge when it comes to writing. It would be lovely if they all came to our classrooms excited about putting pen to page, but when they aren't, there are several things we can do to jump start their creativity.
One of my favourite ways to get my students' creative juices flowing is with brainstorming carousels and gallery walks. I especially like to use this strategy when we're working on idea development. I adhere titles on the top of pieces of chart paper and then put each one up on the wall in various areas of my classroom. Next, I group my students and send each group to a piece of chart paper. There, they need to brainstorm words, ideas, phrases, etc. to develop or describe what is written in the title. After several minutes, groups will rotate to the next poster where they are instructed to add new details to the paper. We repeat this process until they've added detail to each topic. Finally, groups go on a gallery walk to read what has been added to each poster. When they return to their seats, they will choose one of the topics as a basis for a writing assignment. Reluctant writers will have a whole arsenal of ideas to get them going, and even the stronger writers will find inspiration from their peers.


Writing lessons and activities

This works beautifully for any type of writing: descriptive, narrative, persuasive, etc. I use it quite often as pre-writing for literary analysis. I'll put the name of a character, a theme or a motif at the top, and the kids will use the brainstorming carousel to fully flesh out their ideas for each one. If you'd like to try an activity like this, you can grab a selection of titles here. Just print them off and adhere them to chart paper. Alternatively, you could just leave the title at a station and have the kids write on looseleaf.


I love using group challenges to jump start my writers. First of all, a little healthy competition is always good.  Students will dive excitedly into an activity when they know they can "beat" their classmates -- and offering candy as a prize amps the competition up considerably! These challenges are not just for fun, however, because writing as a group also helps the reluctant writers--they get to see the thought process and ideas of others and hopefully learn from their classmates. Even if they use the ideas that are generated from the group, rather than their own original ones, they have a starting point for their own writing.

Writing lessons and activities
My students absolutely love doing writing challenges in class, because they are a fun and engaging way to practice and illustrate their learning. One of my favourite challenges is my sour key exercise, which you can read about in more detail on my blog. I use this exercise to show my students the importance of brainstorming in the pre-writing stage, and also to teach them about perspective. You can grab the perspective cards I use for the exercise here.
mentor texts for middle and high school
English teachers are always telling students that they need to show, not tell. That's something that we need to do when we teach too. Mentor texts can be used to show students what engaging and effective writing looks like. Using them has been a game changer for me. In fact, some of the best student writing this semester came from inspiration from mentor texts. I used the passages on the left this year for a mini-lesson on character development, and was blown away by what my kids created. Even my weakest writers were able to use them as a model to write a reflection about their childhood. If you'd like a copy of it, just click here.

You can check out my Mentor Texts, as well as the ones on Moving Writers. There, you'll find an amazing collection of texts, arranged by genre, that you can use to teach and inspire your students.  In both collections, the passages can be used for both reading and writing workshop.writing prompts

Writing prompts are low pressure writing, an opportunity for kids to experiment and to increase their writing skills. I love looking for interesting photographs and videos to use as prompts, especially ones that will elicit a variety of responses. I just project the image and instruct students to tell the story and let them follow whatever path they choose. Another task I like to give them is to brainstorm the various types of writing the photo could inspire. For example, is the picture of the sneaker an ad? Or is it the basis of a narrative? Perhaps it could inspire an essay on the importance of exercise or following one's dreams.  The whole point is that these photos can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, and so the students can let their imaginations run wild -- or even just find a little inspiration if they have trouble coming up with ideas. 

Recently, The Metropolitan Museum of Art introduced Open Access at The Met, making over 375,000 images available for use under Creative Commons Zero. It's an amazing resource for finding images you could use for writing prompts. If you're looking for something a little more quirky, try Gratisotography.

Video prompts are my go-to for inspiring response to issues. I show my students clips that are relevant and thought-provoking, so even my most reluctant writers are moved to respond. My favourites are ones that are a little controversial, that can cause some debate after we view them.  I've got a collection of ones that have been successful with my students on this blog post.

Too often kids just want to sit down and have the words magically spill off their pen on to the page, without much thinking or effort. But we know that great writing takes great effort -- and a number of important steps. Students usually need a reminder that it's important to slow down and not skip the stages of the writing process. For me, this is always time well spent.

We focus a lot on the idea generation stage in my room, and add in a component that doesn't always require a pen or keyboard: speaking. When I'm trying to work something out, I need to talk about it. Just the act of speaking my ideas out loud helps me see them better. I also get some of my best ideas when I'm out for a walk, so I like to combine these two experiences with my students. During the pre-writing stage, I will often send them for a walk 'n talk around the building or the grounds. They go with pen and paper, so when inspiration strikes, they can record it.  If you aren't comfortable with letting your students wander unattended, you can do a modified version of this in the classroom--just push the desks back and let them stand up to talk with each other as they expire their ideas.

My favourite strategy -- and by far my most successful one for getting students to focus on the process -- is to use learning stations that require them to look at one area of their writing at at time. I'm always so pleased to see the effort they put into improving their work, and the final results have improved drastically since I started using this approach.

Writing Process
My Descriptive Writing and Narrative Writing Stations are also designed to get students to focus on the steps necessary to create amazing pieces of writing.

It's taken me two decades to collect all of these tools and strategies for inspiring my writers, and I know that I'm not yet done learning how to do so. Do you have any tried and true tricks for helping reluctant or stuck writers? If you do, we sure would love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Room-213






Preparing Students for Standardized Tests


Right about this time of year, teachers really start to feel the pressure that comes along with high-stakes testing. Personally, I know that as an 11th grade teacher, my colleagues, my school, and my district are all counting on me to prepare my students for the test as best as I can. And while educators across the nation know that the results are not a direct reflection of a single teacher for a single grade-level, it is still difficult to not feel the pressure. I am the last English teachers my students will have before they take a test that means a great deal to the school.

So how do we cope with the stress of high-stakes testing, prepare our students as best as we can, and continue to teach the content we love so much that inspired us to become educators in the first place? Well, it’s tricky, but it can be done.

First and foremost, test prep should not be teaching to the test! The last thing our students need is a drill and kill curriculum delivery method that prevents authentic learning. This only hurts our students in the long run. Instead, we need to understand what is on the test and how we can incorporate that into our lessons without presenting it as test-prep.

Whether you are preparing students to take the SBAC or the PARCC, here are several different ways you can help prepare your students for three components of the test.

Textual analysis is the backbone of the test. Not only do students need to be able to read and comprehend comprehensive texts, they also need to be able to analyze, dissect, and interpret it as well. One skill that I emphasize throughout the year is the ability to identify an argument and the evidence in which an author uses to support the argument.

Here are some questions I use throughout the year with any text to teach this concept.
  • What is the author’s purpose? Provide textual evidence that demonstrates this purpose.
  • What is the author’s main argument? What evidence does the author use to support the argument?
  • Evaluate the evidence the author uses to support his or her argument.

In order to give my students a foundational understanding of how to analyze text, there are two lessons that I teach toward the beginning of the year, or at the beginning of my argument unit. The first lesson I teach to is a lesson about annotating text that helps students learn how to annotate and break down text. This lesson (Annotating Text Made Easy) includes a step-by-step demonstration of how to annotate text, and it gives students the confidence they need for annotating text on their own.
The second lesson that I find is very helpful is a rhetorical analysis lesson that dives deeper into the subject.  

In addition to knowing how to read, interpret, and analyze text, knowing academic vocabulary is also critically important. If students go into the test with a strong knowledge of academic vocabulary words, they will have a better understanding of the question.


Here is a FREE Quizlet Study Set of these words for you to use them in your classroom. You can copy the list and assign it to your students, and you can also play Quizlet Live with your students!

In order to help my students master academic vocabulary they will encounter on the test, I provide them with academic vocabulary lessons throughout the year. My Academic Vocabulary Bundle includes more than 200 academic vocabulary words, plus activities, puzzles, and quizzes!

Just as students need to be able to analyze text and point out the main argument and supporting evidence, they also need to be able to include these elements in their own writing. I recently blogged about my writing philosophy, and this method of grading helps students improve their writing. In order to score well, students need to include multiple detailed, specific, relevant examples in their writing.

One way I incorporate this into my lesson is through daily bell ringers. I will project a question and require students to answer with a two-sentence or three-sentence response. It can be any question that requires an example, and this works for novels, current events, or nonfiction.

Once students master the two-sentence response, I move on to a three-sentence response. For the third sentence, students add on an explanation of the example and how it supports the answer of the question.
What Students Should Know:
  • Different types writing
  • How to revise writing to make it more clear
  • Transitions that help readers understand sequence and order
  • Basic writing organization

To help students prepare better written responses, I have them use these writing checklists in class. When using these checklists with my students, I first have them read and reread the prompt, answer the questions about the prompt, write their response, and then check their response using the checklist. You can download these checklists and a classroom poster for free HERE.

One lesson that helps my students with this portion of the test is my Topic Sentence and Body Paragraphs writing lesson. With a detailed, step-by-step PowerPoint, I teach my students about the basic format of a paragraph. I walk them through all of the various elements of the paragraph, and include color-coded examples to help them learn the concept. Students need to know how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence, evidence, and explanation.

Listening is a difficult portion of the test for the students because they are so used to having the text in front of them. We emphasize reading, close reading, and annotating so often, that we sometimes force our students to rely on visuals as a crutch.

In order to prepare my students for the listening portion of the test, I use Listenwise.com in my classroom. It is an amazing site that is filled with NPR and Marketplace news stories about current issues that can seamlessly be integrated into thematic units we teach throughout the year. I love Listenwise because I can always find a story that is relevant to the novel I am reading with my students, and it has questions for students to answer with every single story. When I use Listenwise in my classroom, I display the questions on the overhead, explain the questions to my students before we listen to the story, and emphasize to my students that they will need to answer the questions with evidence from the story. Then I play the story for the whole class, and my students work individually to answer the questions.

This is somewhat difficult for the students in the beginning, but after a while the students get better at the listening tasks. As a suggestion, if you’ve never done a listening activity before, start with a shorter story to begin with, and then build to a longer story.


Six Ideas for Teaching Media Literacy

 Even my students who “don’t have time” for homework spend 2-3 hours a day on Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix.

Our students consume media in amazing quantities, and it’s said that traditional advertising doesn’t work on their generation. As advertisers become more and more savvy in an attempt to break through to their younger listeners, it’s important that students understand how to identify the ways in which a speaker could be manipulating their emotions and instincts.

Teaching Media Literacy - Students consume media in record amounts, but how can you best help them becoming discerning readers, viewers, and listeners? Check out these ideas for teaching students about persuasive techniques, media bias, and credibility. Blog post at the Secondary English Coffee Shop by Nouvelle ELA.


Here are some activities for helping students develop an awareness of persuasive techniques. You can use these to start a larger conversation about being an informed viewer (and citizen!) in today’s media-driven climate.

1.      Introduction to Rhetoric


Use this activity to introduce (or refresh) ethos, logos, and pathos. Students watch two videos and complete a Doodle Notes worksheet, eventually synthesizing the concepts. My students really enjoy watching these short, animated videos a couple of times in order to make sure they “get it”, and the Doodle Notes provide a nice visual to help them remember the important ideas! You can grab them here.

Teaching Media Literacy - Students consume media in record amounts, but how can you best help them becoming discerning readers, viewers, and listeners? Check out these ideas for teaching students about persuasive techniques, media bias, and credibility. Blog post at the Secondary English Coffee Shop by Nouvelle ELA.


2.      “Buy My Pencil”


In this activity, students try to convince each other to buy a pencil. They will employ a variety of persuasive techniques, even if they do not yet have the names for all of them. This is because students absorb persuasion constantly, and demonstrate various techniques on a hunch. After a few minutes of letting them try to sell a partner their pencil, call students back together and have them describe the techniques they used.

To extend this, you can have students perform these impromptu skits in front of a larger group or in front of the class. This is a great way to get some informal public speaking practice, and I’m always a proponent of making public speaking less intimidating.

3.      Introduction to Persuasive Techniques


I use this interactive PowerPoint will help students put names to the techniques they’ve grown up hearing and using. Students will be able to identify techniques in context and apply their knowledge of ethos, logos, and pathos.

To break up the term-definition monotony, I have students “buzz in” to identify the techniques in some example ads. I also include Think-Pair-Share to get them to generate more examples of various techniques they’ve seen in recent commercials.

4.      Persuasive Tweets


A fun bellringer or exit slip activity for practicing persuasive techniques is Persuasive Tweets. In 140 characters or less, students can use one persuasive technique to sell something. I’ve had success giving all students one item (similar to “Buy My Pen”) and having them draw a persuasive technique from a hat. You can download my list of persuasive techniques for this activity here.

Teaching Media Literacy - Students consume media in record amounts, but how can you best help them becoming discerning readers, viewers, and listeners? Check out these ideas for teaching students about persuasive techniques, media bias, and credibility. Blog post at the Secondary English Coffee Shop by Nouvelle ELA.

5.      News Literacy Project


The News Literacy Project is a new tool that I would like to integrate into my curriculum throughout the year to help students determine the credibility and levels of bias in various news reports. I’m still in the early stages of exploring this project, but they have online modules that take students through the steps of developing media literacy. According to their site,

“As students progress through the checkology™ platform, journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, NBC News and other news outlets are joined by experts on the First Amendment and digital media to guide them through each lesson’s core concepts. These e-learning experiences use real-world examples of news and information that test students’ emerging skills and lead them to mastery.”

This has huge potential to help our students become informed, discerning citizens! Wow!

6.      Commercial Analysis


Lastly, my students really enjoy applying their new knowledge to commercials! This is a perfect activity to use in this post-football time of the year. Students are still talking about commercials aired during the Super Bowl, and you can find a “top ten” list of commercials to bring to class (vetted first by you for content). Have students choose a commercial, and follow this step-by-step analysis of persuasive techniques. They can complete this alone or in pairs, and can present in small groups. For an added bonus, let them show the commercials in class.

Persuasive Techniques are a great way to get students engaged and thinking. You can help develop their media literacy and challenge them to consider the incoming messages.

What are your favorite resources and activities for teaching persuasive techniques? 


Pin this article for future reference. :)

Teaching Media Literacy - Students consume media in record amounts, but how can you best help them becoming discerning readers, viewers, and listeners? Check out these ideas for teaching students about persuasive techniques, media bias, and credibility. Blog post at the Secondary English Coffee Shop by Nouvelle ELA.



Using Bell Ringers to Spark Discussion


Greetings from The SuperHERO Teacher! As teachers, we are all familiar with bell work of some kind (bell ringers, journal prompts, warm-ups, entrance tickets, etc.), but how can we turn those topics of interest into intellectual classroom discussions? I’m here to help!  Starting a daily routine using entrance and exit tickets, posting discussion guidelines, and determining a school-year worth of topics are some of the many ways to get started. 


Not only will this step help with discussion, it will also be a classroom management MIRACLE.  If your students are prepared to discuss their answers on daily bell work from the beginning of the school year, they will be more apt to participate throughout the course.  I would strongly suggest implementing daily warm-ups the first or second week of the school year or semester.  By doing so, you can set guidelines and expectations immediately, allowing students to gain confidence in live classroom discussions.  In addition to boosting confidence, routine discussion will also create a lively classroom environment where students feel comfortable speaking about their opinions.  


So, how do you develop routine in your classroom?  Try using entrance and exit tickets that your students can use to draft their discussion points prior to speaking about them in front of the class.  I’ve created a FREE editable entrance ticket template for you to use in PowerPoint.  Simply download the file, insert the daily discussion topic, and print them for your students.  Some of the topics I like to discuss as a class are: current events, trending points of interest, controversial matters, and fascinating themes in novels. TIP: Try leaving them in a known area around the classroom so that students can pick them up as soon as they enter the classroom OR greet each student with their entrance ticket at the beginning of class. 



Have you ever *attempted* to have a classroom discussion and it flops because nobody will speak up?  Me, too! It’s the worst!!!  I attribute that silence to my lack of guidelines.  Even if the warm-ups are not meant to be heated debates, it’s still essential to create an environment where students feel safe sharing their thoughts (especially with peers).  These 5 guidelines are a MUST for developing the perfect discussion atmosphere:



The past 4 years of my teaching career, I started off strong, implementing a daily bell ringer… BUT if I’m being honest, by the third month of school, my brain was exhausted and the daily bell ringers no longer existed.  I thought to myself, “…if only I had a year’s worth of bell ringer prompts in an organized fashion” and then decided to take on the challenge myself.  I’ve created two volumes of middle and high school ELA bell ringerjournals.  They include 275 themed prompts that will span from the beginning of the school year all the way to the end.  It’s a stressed teacher’s dream—you’ll never have to come up with a bell ringer topic again! Hallelujah! Click on the pictures below to find out more information.


So, just to re-cap... Be sure to start a daily routine with your students using bell ringers, entrance tickets, or some other for of warm up activity.  Use those activities to then foster classroom discussion using the guidelines I provided in step 3 of this blog post! To access the FREE entrance & exit ticket template to use with your students, click the image below and download it as a PowerPoint presentation.  Thanks for reading! 




Building A Positive Classroom Community


With the pressure for secondary teachers to meet curriculum expectations in such a limited time, building a classroom community can sometimes be put on the back burner.  What many teachers don’t realize is that by intentionally taking time to build a positive community in your classroom, you can ease the challenges of classroom management, improve student attitude toward learning, and create an environment where students feel welcomed and supported.   

Below are my 5 favorite ways to build classroom community in middle and high school.


Establish a positive classroom community by having students complete short activities that encourage kindness, collaboration, teamwork, expression, and the sharing of ideas and opinions.

These challenges don’t need to take up a lot of time.  Have them last 5-10 minutes.  They can be used daily as a bell-ringer, weekly as a fun Friday  activity, or even randomly when you finish class a few minutes early!  
Build classroom community by setting up a classroom challenge bulletin board!  Students reveal one prompt a day and then complete the corresponding activity.  They take only 5-10 minutes each and will help to make build student relationships!
How it works: The teacher sets up a "Classroom Challenge" bulletin board display that includes 20 hidden activity prompts. Once a challenge is revealed, the teacher finds the corresponding activity, passes it out to the class, and they are ready to go!

Here are a few of the prompts I include in my challenge to give you an idea of the types of activities can help build community:

• Write a thank you card for someone you appreciate.
• Talk for one minute to a partner about the topic you receive from your teacher.
• Write a top 10 list on the topic of your choice.
• Imagine you are stuck on a deserted island. Pick one book, one movie, and one other item to bring.
• Play a game of 20 questions with a partner.


You know that nostalgic feeling you get when you are reminiscing with your friends about times past?  Bring that into your room with “Classroom Throwbacks.”  Students use small cards to write down funny, interesting, and memorable moments that happen within the classroom and put it in the “Classroom Thowbacks” jar/box.  
Build classroom community with this FREE resource where students write down funny, interesting, and memorable moments that happen within the classroom.  Later on in the year, take the cards out for a "Throwback Thursday" activity to share class memories.
You can have students fill out the cards randomly, or you can pass them out from time to time, put students in small groups, and have them fill the cards out with a couple memories.  Once the throwback jar starts to accumulate some cards, you can begin sharing them in class.  You might consider sharing one a week for a “Throwback Thursday” activity. Grab this free resource by clicking here.


I once had a principal who left notes of appreciation (and a small treat) in teachers’ mailboxes for little things she had noticed them doing (staying late at school working, helping out at an after-school event, giving extra help at lunch etc.). It was such a small gesture, but it had a dramatic impact on the morale of the staff. Build this same kind of morale in your classroom by finding ways to celebrate your students for the things you see them doing that deserve some praise and appreciation.  There are lots of ways you can do this.  You can post student work in your classroom, call or email parents to brag up those students who don’t often get a pat on the back, or even have a student of the month/week display for those who deserve special recognition!  I also like to keep funny cards tucked away in my desk for those occasions where a student surprises or impresses me.
Build classroom community by tucking these funny cards away in your desk to give to students when they impress or surprise you!
Ask for volunteers for “student paparazzi”. Their job is to take pictures of students in the classroom and send them to you via email to print and post. Of course, students should only take pictures when you deem it appropriate.  They could take some before and after the bell rings or during a class activity (when appropriate and with permission) or at the end of the period if class finishes up a couple minutes early. When you post the pictures in your classroom, consider framing them! I pick up low-cost frames at the dollar store and put them in different locations in my classroom (on the wall, on my desk, on the desk at the front of my room, on a bookshelf).  No need to go use expensive photo paper.  Simply print the pictures on regular letter paper to fit the frame's size (pictures below from the classrooms of @CamilaCdipietro and @Tarafarah7)
Build classroom community by keeping framed pictures of students within the classroom!
Framed photos create a home-like, family atmosphere where students feel welcomed and accepted.   If you have a classroom website or social media account, you could also post the pictures there as long as you have parent media release permission forms.    


Providing students with an opportunity to reflect on the positive moments of the week and look forward to the next week is another way to help foster classroom community.  One way you can do this is by starting a weekly tradition called “Friday 5-4-3-2-1”.  
Students fill out the sheet by jotting down 5 things that made them smile, 4 words to describe the week, 3 things they have planned for the weekend, 2 things they learned, and 1 goal they have.  Give students a few minutes to fill it out and have them share with a partner, a small group, or have a whole class discussion.  If you’d like to try this out with your students, you can download it for free here.  You can also choose to make up your own 5 prompts, as a blank version is included!  Just write the prompts on the board and students can fill it out. 

Do you have any other ideas for fostering a positive classroom community?  Click the comments button at the top of the post and share your ideas! 

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