Classroom Community Systems

A learning environment focused on developing curiosity and creativity necessitates a strong sense of community. Building the foundation for that strong community happens first, and continues all year. Educators know this. We do this every time we set up a new classroom… but there are a few systems we have found to be especially important for the success of a curious and creative classroom for these two reasons: 


Unless this type of learning comes naturally to you because it is what you have always known… then when kids inevitably struggle with big feelings or make big messes your default brain is going to stress out! When you stress out, your brain will default to things like seeking order and fault-based language. You’ll suddenly feel compelled to tell Jimmy to clean up HIS mess, or to ask children to not mix all the materials up, or to sit in a chair instead of reading under the table.

However, when there is a strong sense of community and a set of systems in place, you will know that when learning looks chaotic and messy important things are happening, and order will be regained when we work together at the next transition time.


Children who feel safe can learn, children who do not cannot. Brains love order, systems, and predictability, but they also are attracted to novelty. Novelty is cool because it sparks curiosity and inspires creativity! Systems and order are cool because they allow us to feel comfortable stretching our minds a bit, knowing that we are safe to do so. 

That is why I always start with systems for classroom rules, organization expectations, big feelings, and reflection.

System- Classroom Rules

Every year with young students I select books to set the stage for building our community. Before we discuss classroom rules, we read a book such as Our House by Michael Rosen. This is great to get kids thinking about the golden rule- treating others the way they would like to be treated. Empathy, and taking another perspective are quite difficult for young people but books like this help open that conversation. Then, we engage in discussion about what rules we think would be good for our classroom. I write down every idea that the kids throw out! Then at another meeting, I present how the rules they came up with can go into groups…

Don't kick, hit! Don’t be mean! Becomes… Be kind or Be a good friend.

Ultimately, the kids feel like they build the community rules, but in reality, our rules are the same positively worded and necessary rules every year…

System- Organization Expectations

Establishing the classroom rule “Take Care of Our School” becomes a simple yet effective tool to save your sanity! 

The next step is to slowly introduce the organizational expectations for the classroom in a positive manner. How?

Follow a schedule and have a place for everything and everything back in its place at each transition.

In a curious and creative classroom, there will be many loose materials, open-ended toys, building supplies, books, and new items coming and going often. That is how we maintain novelty, and engagement in learning. Recall that our brains like novelty, and function on systems. 

This is why everything must have a place it belongs in the classroom, and it must be logical…

System- Big Feelings

Big Feelings are natural and inevitable! Learning to identify our feelings and causes, to calm ourselves, find solutions, and maintain relationships is a lifelong journey for most of us. Young people especially need support to build a strong foundation for all their social-emotional learning (SEL). 

Social-emotional learning must be integrated into all aspects of life and learning, not taught in isolation. Meaning with SEL objectives in mind, academic activities will provide practice for both academic objectives and SEL skills. A strong classroom community and an open-ended learning environment are an ideal situation for developing a wide range of social-emotional skills at any age, including…

System- Class meetings & Reflection

Did you know that the human brain can only take in new information for about 5-10 minutes before it needs to pause, process, and reflect?

Seriously! Think about the long lectures you’ve attended and how hard it was to focus and learn. 

With this neuroscience tidbit in mind, we suggest having multiple short and engaging meetings or circle times.

We love starting a morning meeting with a song… really we like to sing all day! Hmm, I suppose “like” is a strong word... I am not a singer or musically inclined really at all. But I have learned through experience and research the amazing impact of singing on building a community and student learning. The evidence has been enough to convince me to sing badly but still sing often!

Diversity & Inclusion

Post coming soon…


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