May 24
Building a Classroom Community

Last week I had a special joy: I met a colleague who is a regular commenter in Faculty Fridays. We had never met in person, but as soon as I heard her name, I knew just who she was. 

Her name is Sherry Seymour. She teaches at the Language Training Centre. 

And, she shared a lovely technique for building a classroom community - one where each student plays an important part. Class Names.jpg

When preparing a test or a quiz, she occasionally ensures that each students' name in the class is found in the assessment. For example, if there is a question like, “Johnny is heading to Mexico for Reading Week. Which word is the verb in the previous sentence?" Sherry replaces Johnny with the actual name of a student in the class. Brilliant.

Imagine how fun for students to find their name in the assessment. Just one important tip – make sure that you do it for each student. 

Thanks for sharing this tip, Sherry. I'll definitely give it a try. 

Do you have any techniques for building a classroom community? Sign in above and then post a comment.


This technique is so great,...

This technique is so great, and it reminds me of my homeroom teacher in middle school. My family was living in Germany and my name, Amanda, was unusual in that it was totally out of fashion -- it was more usually a great aunt who had it, not a 10-year-old. This is relevant, because my homeroom teacher taught us grammar and she had invented a precocious and adventurous character that populated her examples and stories -- and, yes, that character's name was Amanda. When I showed up in the classroom, the teacher was astonished and my classmates were delighted: When Frau Teacher used "Amanda" to teach grammar, the class always drew me, an actual Amanda, into the story. The learning was great fun, and to this day, I enjoy grammar.
Go, Sherry! I'm going to bring this technique into my own classroom. Do your students today respond to seeing their own name as my classmates did in relation to mine?
Picture Placeholder: Amanda  Le Rougetel
  • Amanda Le Rougetel
 on 5/24/2019 7:45 AM

That must have made you fee...

That must have made you feel so special, Amanda! When I was learning Korean, my instructors used our names on worksheets. The examples and questions our names were included in showed that our instructors were listening to us. They asked about our hobbies and ambitions, and they weaved those into the worksheets too.

My students like seeing their names. It's really rewarding when I hear them chuckling during assessments!
Picture Placeholder: Sherry L Seymour
  • Sherry L Seymour
 on 5/24/2019 9:36 AM

The sweetest music is the s...

The sweetest music is the sound of one’s own name! Sherry, what a wonderful way to make your students feel at home and valued. You must be a “Great Teacher”.
Picture Placeholder: Teresa L. Menzies
  • Teresa L. Menzies
 on 5/24/2019 3:32 PM

I really like this! This al...

I really like this! This also seems like a great way to help memorizing student names, something I'm truly awful at. I usually use names of friends ("Ken Rideout" and "Elio Sanchez" are amalgamations of four of my friends, for example) but I like the idea of using student names. That's such an easy change to make each term.

One thing that I'm trying this fall is opening a Discord server for each section. Discord is a chat program that was primarily used for gamers to coordinate their activities but has branched off into a general group chat service. A lot of my students already use it and often set up their own servers as a way to group chat among themselves. It's available as an app and via a browser, so all they need is an internet connection.

I've created a server for each section and three chat channels in each: general, assn-qs, and announcements.

* "General" is just general chit chat that they can use to talk to one another and/or me about whatever they want, including other courses. The caveat is that they must practice good digital citizenship and I'll be popping in to check up on them periodically. I'll also use this to direct them to interesting program-related articles that I find, which I currently do only via LEARN or by mentioning it in class. I might also incorporate specific activities involving posting to this channel.

* "Assn-qs" is, as you might guess, for assignment questions. They can ask whatever they need to there and I can provide answers. This is public to the whole class, so they'll have to think about what's appropriate for the public and what's private - another good digital citizenship practice!

*"Announcements" is, again as you might guess, for announcements and reminders. I'll post assignment reminders and general notices like classroom changes or additional readings (as well as in LEARN, of course, to make sure everyone is covered).

I might use a fourth channel too: "Content-qs" would be or questions about the topic we're discussing. I'd keep it open on my ipad during class so that students can submit questions in writing as we go if they don't want to speak up. It would also be a good way to allow them to ask questions outside of class; the questions and answers would be visible to everyone, so it might cut down on answering the same question multiple times.

I'm aiming for two things here: first to develop that classroom community by encouraging sharing and chatting with each other and me in an informal way outside the classroom, and second to give them a low-risk way to practice good digital citizenship.

Has anyone else used Discord or something similar like Remind with their students?
Picture Placeholder: Jocelyne Olson
  • Jocelyne Olson
 on 5/27/2019 1:47 PM

What a great idea and so ea...

What a great idea and so easy to implement! I will be doing this going forward!!
Picture Placeholder: Andrea McCann-Suchower
  • Andrea McCann-Suchower
 on 6/14/2019 11:21 AM