Building a Learning Community

  • by Kelly Harmon & Randi Anderson
  • Aug. 12, 2019, 1:04 p.m.

Building a community atmosphere at the beginning of the school year is so important for the emotional and academic well-being of your students. Here are a few tips to building a successful community of learning this year.

Identifying as a Reader & Writer

Students need to view themselves as a reader and a writer. One way to get this vision going is to promote book talks starting the first day of school. As the teacher, you can give a few short book talks on books that you personally enjoy and books that students may enjoy too. A book talk is like a short commercial advertising a book. Think of the tv show Reading Rainbow when they did the book reviews at the end of the segment. A book talk is just that! Invite students to share their favorite books from the summer or last school year with the class. This is a great opportunity for students to get excited about reading!

Another idea is to conduct reading interviews. Make it point to meet with each student for 2-4 minutes the first two weeks of school to find out what that student is interested in, whether or not they enjoy reading, what topics they want to know more about, and more!

Accountable Talk

When students are working with others on academic tasks, it is important for them to have a model of what a discussion in the academic setting looks and sounds like. One way to do this is using accountable talk stems. Using the accountable talk cards helps students to discuss new ideas and hear others' perspectives. This will promote listening, speaking, & respecting others. Tape them to the desks or tables and/or make an anchor chart.

As students share their ideas, remind them to use the complete stem. For example, do not just agree or disagree. Have students extend the idea with reasons and evidence. As students use this type of talk, you can monitor and collect data about student understandings and misconceptions. Many times, students will hear or realize the misconception and teammates will help each other clear up confusions.

I cannot imagine effective instruction without great accountable talk!

Download a free copy of our generic accountable talk cards.

Kelly Harmon and Randi Anderson

About The Authors

Kelly Harmon & Associates began in 2001 with a mission of instructional coaching and providing rich literacy resources for educators and parents. Our work incorporates research-based best practices for teaching and learning.

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