Creating a Classroom Culture: Supporting Students to Speak and Listen with Confidence (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners .

Big Idea

How do we begin to learn about each other by "Being Somebody?"


25 minutes

I understand that a large part of my success in the classroom is due to my ability to establish positive relationships with my students.  The first interaction I have with my students needs to be a positive one.  I know many have had negative experience in English as grade 9 repeaters. Creating a classroom culture that is both challenging and comfortable is my goal. I read that it takes a student only a few minutes to decide what kind of teacher you are! I want my students students to believe that I first care about them because I know they “do not care about how much I know until they know how much I care.”  I want them to know that I have high expectations of their learning and take my job very seriously but also enjoy having fun while teaching.  I begin class with the "folders" organizing activity that will become a class routine.


Every student is given a folder that they will be used for organizing all classwork.  I ask them to print their names with a dark magic marker so they can be easily identified.  The folders will be kept in the classroom and picked up as they enter the classroom everyday. Folders also serve as portfolios of the work they have completed and mastered.  At the end of each quarter we will decide together which pieces of work will be saved as examples of objectives learned. 

Two Truths and a Lie

I begin the class with this activity.  I decide to do this first day back to school icebreaker because it will start the important process of speaking and  listening in a group. I first ask students to think of two truths and one lie about themselves. I then call on students one at a time to share three statements about themselves with the rest of the class.  Students must guess which statement is false or made up.  I facilitate the activity by asking students to vote by raising the number of the statement they believe is false SL.9-10.1.   

"I noticed" Intervention

I  begin the relationship building process with communication that demonstrates my interest in them especially with the students I see may be uncooperative.  I will use this sentence starter and fill in the rest: "I notice...."  "I notice you like doing your nails in bright colors" or "I notice you're a Celtics fan."  It works because cooperative student behavior is always linked to a personal connection a student develops with a special adult.


Building Knowledge

20 minutes

I Am Somebody

I'm on a grade 9 team that has names for each of its small teams like "The White Wolves" and "Black Bears."  My class consists of ELA 9 repeaters and consequently are in between grade 9 and 10.  They want to feel like 10th graders but need to pass my class to get there.  I want them to have an identity in the school so I named my class "I Am Somebody."  

After a short discussion on this topic, to help them reflect on this identity students are asked to write their thoughts about the class name and what it means to them W.9-10.10.  After this quick write activity I first ask students to pair up and share their responses with a learning partner and then ask for volunteers to read what they wrote to the class.  It's important to preface this activity with the message that there are no right or wrong answers but only thoughtful discourse. Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives is an essential part of the Comprehension and Collaboration Common Core standard SL.9-10.1.

Student Learning Activity

25 minutes

Can't Judge A Box by Its Cover 

Creating a class that is safe and comfortable for all students to learn must address the importance of respecting  diversity among its members and that starts with relations building (see VID00334).  Your students will come to class with their own perceptions and prejudices.  Change perceptions takes time and everyone is different.  We cannot change a students mind because change comes form the inside out.  We can help them to think about their perceptions of diversity in the class and clearly share our expectations for all students.

This learning activity is a metaphor for not judging someone from the way they look, talk, or learn.  I want my students to look beyond physical appearance when establishing relationships in my class.  I wrap a shoe box as a present and place an undesirable object inside like a dried banana peel.  In a crumpled paper bag, I place a one dollar bill.  High school aged students love money!  I ask the group, "If you could have whatever is in either container, who would choose the box?  The paper bag?"  I then chose one student to come in font of the class and open the box showing her classmates what's inside.  Student comments such as "gross" and "I don't want that" are audible.  I do the same with the paper bag and in contrast hear the "Ahhhs!"

All students discuss the significance of what just occurred.  I prompt them with questions such as:

  • "What does this activity have to do with us as a classroom community?"
  • "What are someways you can get to really  know someone?"

I then facilitate a group discussion selecting students to repsond to my questions. The Can't Judge A Box  activity is from a book I authored entitled: Group Exercises For Enhancing Social Skills and Self-Esteem, Professional Resource Press. Vol 1and 2.



5 minutes

Exit Slips

I ask students to write down 1 thing they learned about a classmate today and 1 question they may have about the activity Can't Judge a Box By its Cover.  After reading their exit slips I write comments on each paper and put them into their folders.