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How can I make community building part of my regular routine?

sept 8, 2020

Community building in the classroom is not a one-and-done activity. It takes time and continuous effort to create a classroom climate where all students feel valued and respected.

One technique that will help foster this sense of belonging is to use the Apology, Applause, and Aha strategy.

This activity can be used in all grade levels on a weekly or even daily basis.

Activity set-up

Under normal circumstances, the Apology, Applause, and Aha activity would be done by having students get in a large circle or small group. But during the COVID-19 era, you can honor social distancing by having students speak from their seats instead of moving into a circle or group.

When working remotely and using a platform like Zoom, all students can participate by typing their responses in the chat for the teacher to share out loud or by unmuting themselves to share out loud.

What to say when it’s your turn

After the physical community is in position, it’s time to focus on the emotional and relational goals of the activity. Give students a moment to look around at their classmates and reflect on the day or week’s events. Then have each student share just one of the following:

  • Share an apology to someone regarding something that happened in the classroom.
  • Share an appreciation or “applause” to one of their peers for something done or said in the classroom.
  • Share a light bulb moment or “aha”—something they didn’t know or just now realized about an individual or the class as a whole.

Model the language used

Like with anything we teach, introduce this strategy by modeling it with students.

My apology is for Gemel because I wasn’t fully listening when he asked me a question.

I want to share applause with Corina for helping others with social studies today. You were able to explain it differently than I could and that was helpful to them.

My aha is for the entire class. I didn’t realize what rockstar scientists you were by the predictions you made on our experiment. Good job!

You may even want to model this several times over the course of a week before you eventually start allowing students to participate. This will build anticipation and get them thinking about what they can say when it’s their turn.

Apology, Applause, and Aha is an engaging activity that builds community by cultivating respect and appreciation for one another and the classroom—and it shows students how to express important emotions to others.

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[Ask Smekens]

How can I be intentional about building an inclusive learning environment?

Go Beyond a Model; Reveal a Think Aloud

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Go Beyond a Model; Reveal a Think Aloud