Creating Community in the Classroom

collaborationGreat things can happen when people collaborate. We can develop dynamic solutions to seemingly intractable problems. We can uncover ingenious responses to our most pressing challenges. We can accomplish more together than any single one of us could possibly do alone.

So we were excited to learn about a new 8 state collaboration to encourage SEL in schools. California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington will work together to create and implement plans toward this end, assisted by CASEL, the leading organization supporting SEL in US schools.

Each participating state has a unique plan, and many of those plans include creating developmentally sensitive standards that show how social and emotional skills are demonstrated at each grade level, developing materials to infuse traditional classroom concepts with social-emotional learning concepts, building strategies for state-level support, and implementing professional-development plans for schools about the subject.

This work should provide an excellent foundation for others to build on and effective models for other states to follow.

The Power of Community

tree circleThis new collaboration also provides an important reminder of the power of community. You could easily make the case that community itself is the foundation for learning. As we noted before, experienced educators know that creating community is the first task in starting off a new school year –

to help students feel welcome, get to know their classmates, share about themselves and build a positive classroom climate that features safety, respect and compassion.

With this foundation teaching is much easier. Students learn better, and school staff has more fun with their work.

As third grade teacher Kyle Schwartz recently told the New York Times about the interest in her “I Wish My Teacher Knew” project,

I really want families to know how intentional teachers are about creating a sense of community and creating relationships with kids. Kids don’t learn when they don’t feel safe or valued.

For her, it began with a simple exercise since embraced by countless teachers across the Twittersphere and beyond: Ask students to finish the sentence “I wish my teacher knew….”

The lesson spurred Ms. Schwartz, now entering her fifth teaching year, to really understand what her students were facing outside the classroom to help them succeed at school.

Of course, there are probably as many strategies for classroom community building as there are teachers, from individual sharing to yoga-based activities that help bring people together. We find the latter especially helpful in that they also provide opportunities for working on other important social-emotional skills such as listening, focusing attention, and reading cues.

All these come together, for instance, in our Changing Tree and Tree Mirrors activity, in which students do variations on Tree pose, following a leader or partner, and expressing different concepts through facial cues and movement. In this clip from one of our trainings, Lynea takes the group through several variations on this activity and explains the processes at work:

Tree Circle and Trust Walk are other excellent community-building activities that both bring students together and begin nurturing the social-emotional skills that will serve them well as the term progresses. Or try combining Heart Thoughts with Volcano Breath, and encourage the students to share about who they sent their heart thoughts to – an excellent way to begin nurturing empathy, as well.

Interested in implementing Yoga Calm at your school? Stay tuned for details on our upcoming webinar!

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Creating Community in the Classroom syndicated from http://www.yogacalm.org

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