Community building in the classroom: Activities for kids, to help students learn social skills, develop friendships, and build classroom community.
Encouraging community building in the classroom is a passion of mine, and here I will provide you with plenty of activities for kids. These are activities that can be easily implemented daily to help build social skills, responsibility, and community.
Why Teach Community Building in the Classroom?
Participating in activities together as a class to help build relationships, problem-solving, and community is extremely valuable. They can help build a sense of trust and togetherness between peers and with their teacher. They encourage different topics of conversation, opportunities to solve problems, and new experiences. Being active and sharing also builds teamwork. These are all things that will help a child develop a strong sense of self and solid social skills. The best thing about community-building activities is that they are enjoyable and bring out the best in kids.
When and How Should We Implement Community Building in the Classroom?
Community building activities for kids are great any time of year and any time of day. I use the following as culminating activities to our weekly classroom meetings to help bring closure and closeness after our meetings. They can be quick and take a few minutes, like a game of “telephone”, or can be a project that takes longer and has steps, like a STEM activity. How you add your community-building activities to your day is up to you. I suggest finding a gap in time or before or after a transition where an extra activity can be added seamlessly.
Community Building in the Classroom: Activities for Kids
Community building activities can be just about anything you choose to do as a class together. Activities for P.E. lend themselves well to this, as well as games you can play at the carpet. Below are 5 community building activities for kids that I teach in my classroom to connect and strengthen our relationships.
STEM Building Challenges for Community Building
STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities and building challenges are a great way to build teamwork and cooperation. Giving students a task they have to figure out, plan, and complete together builds problem-solving skills and a sense of accomplishment. These tactile activities work the mind and the body together. You can create STEM challenges with materials you have ready in your classroom. Give your class a set of materials, the task, or a question, and let them get to work in small groups.
We enjoy using and building marble mazes in small groups. Marble mazes are not simple to build, especially when there are more than a few people. It requires communication and planning. We also have a set of red solo cups ready to go for a quick activity. Give your students a challenge to complete, such as “build the tallest tower using 30 cups,” and let them get to work. Students also love it when you hand them marshmallows, Play-Doh, and some toothpicks and ask them to build a structure.
Here are some must-have materials to get your class started with STEM.
Check out this STEM Pinterest board with tons of engaging activities for skill and community building.
Cooperation & Teamwork Activities for Community Building
Activities that get kids moving and working together help build cooperation, teamwork, and community. These types of activities work well during P.E. class or during recess when your class is in a larger, open space. They require a few pieces of equipment found in most schools.
Parachutes is a high-energy activity that requires children to hold onto the edge of a large parachute and move it up and down. Whenever we play parachute games, there is instant and uncontrollable laughter. Everyone works together to get the parachute to do different things. There are many games you can play with a parachute (check out Mom Junction’s post with 15 games).
Setting up relays where children must complete a sequence of activities while working as a team with peers is an excellent way to build teamwork. Teaching children to cheer on and encourage others and to show good sportsmanship is essential for success. You can use so many different items in creating relays. Hula hoops, skipping ropes, beach balls, and the outside playground set-up works great.
Here is some must-have equipment to get your class started with teamwork activities.
Get to Know You Games for Community Building
Games, where we learn more about each other, are great for building community. We feel closer and develop acceptance when we get to know each other better. It is essential to play these games at the beginning of the year to help students get to know their peers and develop new friendships. They are also fun to play throughout the year to learn something new, especially during classroom meetings.
Get to Know You Game #1: Everyone writes a fact about themselves on a small sheet of paper. Encourage kids to share things that nobody knows already (a summer vacation, an accident, a fear, etc.). Fold up the papers and put them inside the hat. Whenever you have a few extra minutes to fill, pull out a sheet, read it to the class, and have them guess who it is about. After that person is revealed, get them to tell the story of what happened.
Get to Know You Game #2: Complete a self-portrait lesson during art. Once they are complete, collect them and sue them during this game. Put up a portrait of a student. Take turns as a class sharing things they know about that person and nice words (adjectives) about that person.
Communication Games for Community Building
Communication games are an amazing way to build listening and thinking skills. Children work together to solve a problem, listen to questions and answers, and share strategies and ideas. Providing children with opportunities to “play” together builds community and fun into your day. Children love to play these games and they are quick and simple to implement.
Play “telephone” in a circle as a class or in small groups. Share a message and watch it whispered to each person in a circle. See if the message is changed or remains intact. It makes it extra fun to use a toy telephone. It lends itself well to discussions about how to focus and listen closely.
Another fun game is Headbanz. Give a student a card to put in their headband that they cannot see. They have to ask questions and their peers give answers without telling them what is on their card.
Class Jobs for Community Building
Giving students their own jobs in the classroom builds ownership and respect for one’s classroom. It requires teamwork as children work together to complete tasks and help the teacher around the room. Students love having their own job to take care of each day. They take responsibility for their classroom jobs and, for the most part, put in a good effort, with some guidance along the way. Read more about how I use classroom jobs in my classroom.
Every class transitions throughout the school each and every day. Take advantage of those times with something fun, quick, and engaging. Use class call-backs anytime to need your class to listen and focus. They respond to the call you give. Below are some examples. Line up chants are also useful is readying the class for transitioning through the school. Students work together to repeat the chant aloud with the teacher.
Social-Emotional Development Resource
Looking for more lessons and activities to help build community and social-emotional skills? Check out the mind+heart SEL curriculum!
What do YOU do to encourage community building in the classroom?
More Resources for Community Building
Create a Classroom Contract
Try the FREE class contract resource. Click the image below to download your copy.
FREE Social Emotional Learning Email Series
Sign up for the social emotional learning email course filled with tips to get you started, lesson and activity ideas, PLUS tons of FREE resources you can access right away. Everything you need to teach social skills and emotional literacy in the classroom!