Building a Belonging Classroom What You Need to Know

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Building a Belonging in the Classroom

Building Sense of Belonging

Building a sense of belonging is a strong sense of connection to a group or community. Feeling respected and accepted, having a sense of group purpose, and being part of a bigger system are ways to achieve this. People are more likely to be motivated and involved in their work when they feel belonging. It may also lead to more fruitful and healthy relationships and productivity. This is according to How to Create a Sense of Belonging in the Classroom by Yussif

Why is it Important?

According to Yussif, academic success is more likely, for students with a sense of belonging are more likely to succeed. A strong sense of belonging can facilitate a smoother transition from primary to secondary school, and help children build positive relationships with instructors and other students.

For kids to learn how to communicate with others and control their emotions, they must have a sense of belonging. It is imperative that students acquire knowledge on the significance of relationships and effective dispute resolution techniques. Students who feel a feeling of belonging are better able to engage with people in a variety of situations and settle disputes amicably.

Simple Ways to Build Sense of Belonging

Michael Dunlea, author of Every Student Matters: Cultivating Belonging in the Classroom, suggests five simple ways to convince every student that he or she was meant to be in my classroom: 

Shine a light on each student

Students often look to their teacher to show them how to act around other people. This is what we call modeling in the learning world. My experience with kids who have learning differences has taught me that it’s important to show them that every child is unique and worth celebrating. Before she came to my class, one of my students ate by herself every day for a whole year. The way she behaved made her stand out, and other students started to avoid her. We tried to laugh with her and compliment her in front of her friends when she became my student. My co-teacher and I also had an aide. Soon, her classmates changed how they felt about her, and she never ate alone again. Your kids can see how great each other is if you help them see each other through your eyes.

Foster student identity building

Each year, I give my students five free hours to work on pet projects or genius hours of their choice. It only needs to be a two-paragraph written or typed piece to be English language arts-based. For students, these projects are very personal and a way to show their peers more about who they are. They also help them get better at public speaking. Students have come to class to talk about rare medical problems they were afraid to bring up before. Some students have looked into their family history or things they do, like dance or karate. Students are motivated by what they are interested in, and often say they liked learning about themselves and each other.

Always leave one desk empty

At least one new student has joined us every year in the middle of the school year. It is likely that any 8-year-old who moves in the middle of the school year will have one of the worst times of their lives. When they walk in and see an empty desk, it lets them know that our class has been waiting all year for them. It also reminds other students that our class could grow and change at any time. My students also make cards for new students to welcome them and hand them out when they come in. Teachers can let new students know they’re not welcome, or they can let them know they’re excited to have them.

Make sure that each child feels chosen

Several times a year, I ask my students to write down the names of three students they would like to work or sit with, and rank them in order of choice. When I look at the findings, I see who is being chosen and who isn’t. Now that I know that, I look for students who weren’t picked and give them chances to make friends with other students. On one of them, I might say, “Choose anyone you want to walk this to the office,” for example, to help them look better in the eyes of their peers. Sometimes, I’ll pair these kids with specific people who can help them by showing them how to be socially appropriate.

Weave social and emotional practices throughout the day

Just before the end of the school year, I start letting students pick their own activity partners. To change things up a bit, I let the students who don’t usually pick partners be the ones who do. Because I know this could go badly, I tell my students, “When someone chooses you, they are giving you a gift—the gift is saying, out of all the people in the class, I choose you.” This helps them remember how to act if the person who chose them wasn’t the person they were thinking of. This easy activity only takes three minutes, but it teaches students to value each other and is good for their social and mental health.

Take Away

The more of these strategies you use in your lessons, the more your students will feel like they fit, and the better the learning environment will be for everyone.

About the author

Maria Lee
By Maria Lee