Fostering Kindness in the Classroom & Building Classroom Community

3:00 AM

Hey everyone! I’m Melissa Glenn from Real Life in First Grade! I live in New Jersey with my amazing husband, Tom and our sweet fur baby, Klaus. I’m currently in my TENTH year of teaching first grade! First grade is my FAVORITE grade and also the only grade I have ever taught… sooo I might be a little biased. ;)

February is off to a busy and exciting start in my classroom! This is the magical time of year when “old kindergartners” start to become “almost second graders”. My little guys and girls are working hard on being independent “problem solvers”.

One of the things I try to revisit throughout the year is the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. In our room, we work hard to support one another. We cheer each other on with each success. We offer help when it is needed. 

Maintaining a loving and respectful classroom community takes a lot of work, patience, modeling, and guiding. Even as adults, we tend to focus our attention on the negative- what needs to be fixed, improved, or completely changed- rather than the positive. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it’s the perfect time to have students pause and reflect on all the truly wonderful characteristics of their classmates!

This year and last, I presented my students with a meaningful writing prompt that really changed the way they looked at one another. This activity brought new friends together and old friends even closer. It built up self-esteem and helped children feel proud of who they are.

First, we discussed what a compliment is and how to give one. There is a WONDERFUL pack on TpT from Speech Space that can be used to plan one or more lessons on this. You can find it by clicking here.

Then, I explained to the class that they’d be writing complimentary pieces about other students in the class. The students would pick name sticks randomly to find out with classmate they’d be writing about. (If you choose to do this with your class, be sure to talk about how the point is to make others feel good about themselves… therefore no one should make a face if they pull the name of someone they are not close to).

After some modeling and guiding, the kids got started on their writing! I was truly impressed by some of the thoughtful and insightful things they wrote about one another.

Before putting the writing up for display, the kids had a chance to share their writing with the class. The looks on their sweet faces as they listened to the kind things others had to say were PRICELESS. The best match ups were children who were not previously close friends- this activity helped them to get to know one another and created a new friendships!

This year, I improved on the activity by creating a writing “planner” for kids who need it. You can grab the planner and lined writing paper for free by clicking here. I'll be blogging about the updated activity with my class this year on my personal blog soon- hop over to Real Life in First Grade and follow so you don't miss it!

I am always looking for new ways to foster kindness and build an even tighter-knit classroom community. What are some ways you foster kindness in your classroom? Please share in the comments below!

by Melissa Glenn

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