Getting Started in Kindergarten: Building Community Through a Shared Language

Sunday, 7 August 2016

When I think of community building, my first thoughts are of ice breakers or team building games that are used to help children get to know one another.  

Yet, it's also about a shared language that can either be intentionally set in motion by the teacher or left to develop on its own.  

If you've ever been to an Apple Store, you may have experienced the Genius Bar "vibe" that comes from explicit training in empathy and a manual that clearly defines the specific language used when helping customers.  

It's pretty impressive and not as evident in the Geek Squad at Best Buy.

community building kindergarten classroom rules management

So for my little "geniuses,"  I'm going for the intentional approach with guiding words in the form of a class motto, a set of promises, and affirmations.  

The plan is to introduce and model this language with the hope that children will internalize it, transfer it to self-talk, and begin to use it "out loud" in their interactions with one another.    

Some things to think about this when developing your own shared language:

Choose Your Words Carefully

Whether you decide to call them rules, agreements or promises, choose language that is kindergarten friendly. 

Break down terms such as "respect" into smaller, "bite-sized" chunks for kinders.  Here's how I whittled down respect into four promises: 
We take good care of ourselves. 
We take good care of each other. 
We take good care of our learning space. 
We take good care of our Earth.  
Then, I further broke down the promises into affirmations to get even more specific. You can get these posters here:

community building kindergarten classroom rules management

Make It Transferable

Your "big ideas" need to be transferable into your every day interactions with children.  Identify prompts or catch-phrases that you can use consistently and make sure they are ones you would want to hear the children saying to each other!  

Make it Tangible

Create a concrete version of your guiding words to help children visualize it.  Use this to introduce each rule/agreement/promise, slowly adding to it in the first weeks of school.  When finished, use it with pairs or individuals as a support tool and set it out for children to explore during their play.  Here's the one I'll be using!

community building kindergarten classroom rules management
The wood pieces represent our community circle and will be personalized with children's pictures.

Language Do's and Don'ts

Use the phrase, "We don't talk that way in here," when addressing language that is not positive or appropriate.  Children will also use it to respond to others who are speaking unkindly. 

If you'd like a kick-off plan for developing a shared language with your children, check out the third Kindergarten Kick-off Deck: Our Motto and Promises where you can find my plan for the year.  

community building kindergarten classroom rules management

Thanks for stopping by!

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