"Workin on the Chain Gang"
Mrs. Goerend is a fifth grade teacher from Iowa. In her blog, she mentioned the importance of building community in the classroom. She stated it may be one classroom, but it's filled with many people, each of them with different strengths. And because of these differences, it makes for a very accomplished classroom.
To emphasize this, she presented her class with the "chain gang" activity. Basically, students are given a few strips of paper and are asked to write down a few things they do well. Then the students proceed to build a chain out of all the "strips of strength," and it serves as a reminder to the students that they all have their own unique abilities. They will also begin to see the benefits they can reap from teamwork.
I thought this activity was ingenious, and I hope to use it in my own classroom one day. In their own ways, students contribute to the success of their class. I remember as I got older, I realized the importance of listening to other people. Because other people offered different opinions and ideas and techniques and so much more that I never would have thought of in a million years! Now, it may or may not have changed my own views at the time, but at least it opened my mind to the possibilities.
I asked Mrs. Goerend if she thought this type of activity would be too "elementary" in a secondary school setting. She simply stated kids would probably appreciate listing things they're good at no matter how old they were. She also said the teacher's attitude toward it makes the difference. And I believe she is right. A little boost in our confidence/self-esteem is good once in awhile. It gives us a sense of worth.
In this blog post, Mrs. Goerend again talks about the importance of community in the classroom. She is a new teacher at the school and other teachers in her grade level made her aware of a tradition they had. This tradition involved students bringing a grocery bag filled with a few items about themselves. They would then share those items with the class. She learned a lot about her students over the two days they held the activity.
In response, I told Mrs. Goerend that I thought the bag sharing was another great idea. It shows the students that she cares about them and their interests, and that's definitely important in building community. It was nice that Mrs. Goerend also shared a few items of her own. I think by sharing some of her items she appears to be more of a person than just being labeled as "the teacher." This will bring them all much closer as a unit.