Consider utilizing the rest of the Back to School: Building Community for Connection and Learning Toolkit. This guide provides teacher resources and activities that will help lay a foundation for a reflective and caring community in the opening days of the school year and/or the beginning of your elective course.
Routines can be a key component of a brave and reflective classroom community.
Setting aside five to ten minutes at the beginning and/or end of class to welcome students to the learning space, gauge their emotional well-being, and nurture community can help students experience school as a crucial part of their day that is predictable, meaningful, and supportive.
As you work to establish and nurture a reflective classroom community, consider introducing additional student-centered activities and opening and closing routines from our collection Community Matters: A Facing History & Ourselves Approach to Advisory. This resource guide contains a year’s worth of activities, student handouts, and best practices to help you build student-centered spaces where honest questioning, discussion, and social and academic growth can occur.
Opening routines set a welcoming and inclusive tone.
They are short and can be done in small groups or as a full class before moving on to the main learning activities for the day. You might begin every class with the same opening routine, assign specific routines to each day of the week, or open with something different each day. The important thing is to establish the first few minutes as a time to engage the group in reflection, reestablish community, build relationships, and mindfully transition into the day’s academic activities. You may want to choose an opening routine for each lesson that helps set the energy level for the day’s learning needs or piques curiosity around the topic.
Fostering a Reflective and Supportive Community, Section C. Opening Routines (from Community Matters, PDF page 12) offers activities and prompts that are designed to help you set a welcoming and inclusive tone and can be used repeatedly throughout the course. These opening routines involve student input and foster leadership.
Closing routines provide an opportunity to reestablish connection, summarize key concepts, reflect on emotions, and set academic and personal goals.
Closing routines can take place in whole-class discussions, small groups, and individual reflections. As with opening routines, repeating closing routines will help your students internalize the steps and modeled behavior, and eventually students will be able to facilitate routines on their own.
Fostering a Reflective and Supportive Community, Section D. Closing Routines (from Community Matters, PDF page 15) offers activities and prompts that can serve as a transition from the topic of the day, help students summarize or reflect on something from the lesson, or offer a connection to or preview of the next lesson. Repeating a closing routine will help your students internalize the behavior, which will lead to more meaningful reflection and contribute to nurturing an inclusive community where students can be seen, valued, and heard while they develop the skills to build their voices.
Throughout this guide, there are occasional suggestions for opening and closing routines that pair well with specific activities; however, we encourage you to choose what routines work best for your unique classroom environments.
You can also access a digital version of our Establishing Opening and Closing Routines collection on our website.