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. 

Looking for more ways to promote class community?  Find more ideas below!

Student-Teacher Conferences from The SuperHERO Teacher
Classroom Community Bell-Ringers from The Daring English Teacher
The Kindness Project from Room 213

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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12 comments

  1. I LOVE all of these activities. I hope to use them and then share them with my school community through my instructional coaching position.

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I'm so glad you liked the post and the resources. Instructional coaching is such an important job, so hopefully the resources can help the teachers you are mentoring! :).

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  2. Yay!! Thank you!! I love the activity, Friday 54321! Using it this Friday for sure! So great! Also, thanks for including my students in your post! They will be so excited! Their parents will be proud...Sharing at conferences this week!:-)

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    1. Thanks so much for allowing me to use the photo of your students! I absolutely love seeing your classroom posts on Twitter. Your students seem so positive and fun! Let me know how the Friday 5-4-3-2-1 goes :). - Bonnie (Presto Plans)

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  3. Fabulous post, Bonnie! Thank you for sharing. Classroom community is SO important!

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  4. The Friday 5-4-3-2-1 activity is a great way to end the week on a positive note. Thank you for sharing.

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  5. Bonnie, you are SO creative! Those ideas and resources for classroom challenges are simply stunning. Gorgeous stuff... but then, I wouldn't expect anything less from you! :-)

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  6. Really like these ideas. I have found that the more unity you can create in the classroom, the more positive peer pressure works on so many levels. That's why I so enjoy "inside jokes" with my 3rd graders. One must be careful not to pull negative connotations to anyone in particular with joking...but it is fun to make connections from one discipline to another with connections. These ideas mentioned in this article are just the things to have to make references with!

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  8. School is not meant to be just a place where kids show up, learn, go home, repeat. Research shows that for students to reach their maximum learning potential their social-emotional needs have to be met. They must feel safe, accepted, welcome and connected to a community. In my first year of teaching I was so focused on the content- all the standards I needed to teach the kids. I pushed hard to engage my students and ‘stay on schedule’ with our curriculum, but to no avail. The kids were apathetic at best. Then I attended professional development that centered around growing student success by building and maintaining a strong classroom community. The training transformed my outlook and teaching practices. The next school year I implemented many activities and routines like the one offered in this article. The results were incredibly positive! Once a strong classroom community was established, student engagement and success rose steadily.
    Does your child’s teacher foster a positive classroom environment and community? OpenNetReview (www.opennetreview.com) is a site that I like to use that is available to advance our education system to better help each different school district. You can record your experience as multiple choice questions, indicate what matters more to you, participate in a discussion forum specific to your school or district. Answer questions on classroom environment to record what is happening in your school and start the discussion on what is working and what needs to improve. Example review questions from the platform:
    Is promoting a positive classroom environment a school priority? No, Somewhat, Yes
    Are teachers provided with training in Responsive Classroom? No, few teachers, Most teachers, Yes all teachers
    Do administrators act as leaders to promote a positive school community? No, Somewhat, Yes

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  9. Thank you so much for you great ideas. I am looking forward to implementing them in my classroom!

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