This month, we are discussing how we integrate language skills while we are building and setting up our classroom culture. There are so many opportunities to build language skills while we are building a classroom culture. Many times, as classroom teachers, we are so focused on the “classroom culture” part, that we may not even stop to think how language is a part of these activities and ideas that so many of us do on a daily basis. Let’s get started!
Do you know there are a handful of students who enter our classrooms every year who do not even KNOW how to appropriately greet a fellow child, much less an adult? Taking the time to individually greet students every morning helps them to HEAR and be exposed to polite, respectful greetings. “Good morning, Bobby!” is a very simple phrase that some students need to be taught how to respond to. I ask my students to say “Good morning!” back to me. I also encourage students to use my name when doing so. “Good morning, Miss DeCarbo!” is what we love to hear when students walk through the classroom door. While preschool teachers do an excellent job at making morning greetings a priority in their classroom, we often forget the value of a simple morning and afternoon dismissal in the primary grades. At the end of the day, it’s important to me that I tell each child to have a good afternoon on their way out. I also make sure to praise them and tell them that I can’t wait to see them tomorrow. Often, simply modeling this social gesture helps students take ownership of it.
In today’s day and age, it is uncommon for students to shake someone’s hand and introduce themselves. But guess what?! It is such a VITAL life skill!! Students need to leave our schools understanding how to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and introduce themselves. It is a life skill they will use within the workplace and within their everyday lives. Many students are not taught this important skill at home. As teachers, we have the opportunity to make sure this necessary skill is used in school. Some students will need LOTS of practice looking someone in the eye and using their words to do this. This is a great lesson to implement during those first few months of school as students are learning one another’s names.
Teaching kindness is important when we are developing a classroom culture. A teacher can do a million and one activities and top notch lessons that are devoted to classroom culture, but if students are not taught how to interact with one another, the kind culture we desire will never develop. We need to teach our students what kind friends SAY to one another and we need to use and review that language EVERY DAY. Make a chart with your class and post it in the classroom. Add kind phrases and sentences that kind people would use with one another to the chart throughout the year. I believe that teaching really little ones to say “I’m sorry,” is great, but as our students get older, we need to explicitly teach them to elaborate on this thought. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you in line. I know I hurt your feelings and I won’t do that again,” is a more elaborate apology that we can teach. Start small, with simple, short phrases. As the year progresses, expand on these sentences to encourage students to elaborate and include detail. Your students’ writing – and your happy classroom of kind friends – will thank you!