Fostering a strong sense of belonging in students is such an important part of our teaching journey. It is something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured right from the start. At the beginning of the school year it is crucial to help students feel like they belong in your classroom. This not only helps them to feel comfortable but it will also help them thrive and find success throughout the year. The feeling of belonging can have a huge impact and lasting impact on students. Starting the year off right with strategies to make your classroom inclusive and inviting is always a great idea. These tips and ideas for how to make students feel like they belong will help you start the year off on the right foot.
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . .
1. Celebrate Each Student
You have a class full of new students each year, and all of them are different and unique in wonderful ways. No two students learn the same, have the same interests or strengths, or life experiences. It is important when going into each year to be aware of these differences. Shine a light on each student and their amazing strengths and abilities to make them feel a sense of belonging while still being special and unique.
It is important to showcase each student’s talents and celebrate their victories, big and small. Maybe you have a class clown that is silly and always telling jokes, laugh and celebrate their personality. There may be a quiet, shy student that keeps to themselves, honor their strides to break out of their shell. By doing this you not only make students feel like they belong, but you become a model for other students to celebrate and cheer on each other as well!
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . . Celebrate Each Student!
2. Make Introductions
It can be intimidating to walk into a new classroom on the first day of school. Students have a new environment, new teacher and new classmates to get warmed up to. Making introductions quickly and in a fun and inviting way, can help all students feel like they are immediately an important part of your class.
There are tons of fun activities and games that allow a student to introduce themselves to the class and let everyone around them know what they like and dislike. It also lets students get familiar with each other and creates comfort in the classroom. As students learn more about each other, they also learn about things they have in common. A student knowing they have others in the class that loves baseball and ice cream can really help them feel like they belong and help them strike up friendships quickly.
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . . Make Introductions Quickly!
3. Create an Inviting and Safe Space
When students step foot into your classroom they should feel a sense of peace and belonging. Creating a safe and supportive space is ideal in helping students feel like they belong. Creating a comfortable space within your classroom can be easy. For example, set-up a quiet reading nook where students can go to unwind. Let each child have their own space within their desk to helps them feel more in control and at ease. Show off student work and accomplishments in the classroom. There are lots of ways you can find to make your space inviting and let students know they belong.
It’s also important that the classroom be a safe place for students. One where students are encouraged to try and fail; where individuality is celebrated; and one where being yourself is a priority. This type of environment makes students feel like they belong. They are also safe to change, grow, try new things and dream without fear of being made fun. When students encourage and celebrate each other there is a sense of belonging that will push your students towards new and exciting things.
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . . Create and Inviting and Safe Space!
4. Cultivate Community within the Classroom
Having the class feel like one unit, like a family, can really boost that sense of belonging in students. From the very first day, set standards and expectations for your classroom. Model acceptance and encouragement. Let children know that everyone is to be treated fairly and included. Create an environment that does not tolerate bullying, and encourages students standing up for one another. This helps each student feel like they have a voice and are a part of something bigger than themselves. It is empowering to know that you don’t stand alone.
Additionally, get students involved in helping you create the core values and ground rules for your classroom. By having students help create the rules of the classroom you will create an inclusive atmosphere and a great sense of pride and belonging. Students creating together will connect them and provide a sense of community right off the bat.
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . . Cultivate Community!
5. Take an Interest
Children have lots of interests. They are usually excited to share their hobbies and interests with anyone who will listen. When it comes to connecting with your students take an interest in them and what they do. Make a plan to check-in with students regularly. This should include school work and also life outside of school. In fact, even “big kids” like a little show and tell every now and then. Teachers are children’s biggest ally most of the time, so creating a wondering student-teacher bond is important for finding belonging in the class.
How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong . . . Take an Interest!
The Importance of Belonging
We never know exactly what our students are dealing with outside the classroom. When they step into our room they should always feel safe, heard, and like they truly belong. Students who feel a sense of belonging in the classroom are more engaged and set up for long-term success, both academically and emotionally. If students feel accepted and supported they will thrive. As teachers, we have so many ways in which we can help our students feel like they belong. It is up to us to create a sense of community and support. By making this a priority during the first few weeks of the year, we can lay a foundation of the months ahead.
Save these Ideas for How to Make Students Feel Like They Belong
Be sure to save these tips and ideas to your favorite classroom Pinterest board. Then you can come back and reference them any time you need fresh ideas for how to help students feel like they belong!
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