Classroom Community Builders: Book Review

Introduction

I was kindly asked a few weeks ago by Alphabet Publishing to review a recent publication, “Classroom Community Builders: Activities for the First Day & Beyond“, written by Walton Burns. After a few weeks of waiting, the book finally arrived along with a personalised letter from the publisher.

The publisher, Alphabet Publishing, is one of those small independent organisations which specialise with practical ideas for teaching and lesson ideas. The first book that I reviewed for them was “50 Activities for the First Day of School” as a video book review. You can watch the video below or find out a bit more from a previous blog post.

Initial Impressions

The book seems quite impressive, packed with 160 pages of inspirational practical ideas which could used in the classroom immediately. There are four main chapters within this book which focuses on practical ideas for classroom activities with the remaining chapters providing additional information or context such as From the First Day to a Classroom Community, Tips for Building CommunityConsiderations for Grouping Students and About the Author. The four main chapters of the book, Set Your ExpectationsWorking TogetherGetting to Know you ActivitiesGet to Know Your Teacher, offer over 70 practical ideas for generating and develop rapport between all those that are involved in the classroom: students and teacher. However, the intial introduction focuses on how this book evolved from the previous publication, “50 Activities for the First Day of School“. It is a welcome introduction for readers and provides some context.

Overview of Teaching Ideas

The first chapter, Set Your Expectations, aims to give the reader 11 activities which would promote the development of a class community, establish good behaviour. My favourite activity in this chapter is Good Teacher / Good Student, where the teacher elicits possible good qualities of a good teacher and then of those of a good student. It is a lovely activity which develops self-reflection, observations and creating good study skills.

The following chapter, called Working Together, which encourages students to work in groups or small teams contains 33 ideas which the reader could incorporate into class so the learners could learn teamwork skills and understand the benefits of working together. Some of the activities are familiar favourites such as Sentence Auction, Plane Crash SurvivalSorting Line (used for get to know you activities) or Picture Flashing. This chapter is a wonderful reminder for those that would like all these familiar ideas in one section to review. However, for newly certified teachers, this chapter has a lot of great ideas that they could use immediately in class.

Chapter Three, Getting to Know You Activities, offers the reader additional first-day activities which could be developed for use in class. As mentioned in the book, the first five ideas in this chapter are focused on remembering names in the classroom while the remaining ideas focus on developing rapport with all in the class. There are 18 lesson ideas in this chapter of the book. However, one familiar topic that I like to incorporate in class is throwing a ball and asking a question to the student who catches it. This idea is actually introduced in the book as a name reminder. One of the other popular activities that I have used to remember student names before is the making of name cards and it is great to see this is recommended and is called Name Tents.

The final chapter for lesson ideas, Get to Know Your Teacher, places emphasis for students to generate rapport and interest in the person who is teaching them in class with 5 lesson ideas. I will definitely be looking into this area as I have focused less on introducing myself to students and really fall back on to the typical activities of writing 3 sentences on the board about myself with 2 sentences being true and the remaining 1 being false or writing up 4 important numbers to me and the students have to work together to find out why these numbers are important. However, some of the ideas in this chapter are great and I do like the First Day Letter idea for students. It is personal and you can get students to write a response to this.

There are three chapters at the end of the book which include summaries on Tips for Building Community with things to consider when incorporating some of the ideas from the book. Considerations for Grouping Students, highlights what to take into account various things (gender, language, etc.) when putting different students together. Again this is something that we consider naturally as experienced teachers but for those teachers who are less experienced will find this useful. The final chapter, About the Author, introduces Walton Burns and is a great end to a book which is worthy for all teachers irrespective of experience.

 

Final Thoughts

The publication offers readers some great ideas which could be incorporated in class quickly with minimal preparation. Within the book itself, there are some photocopiable resources which could then be used in class. This book is probably best suited for teachers who have just completed the CELTA or equivalent with teachers wanting one publication which offers a range of ideas for developing rapport and interest in the students as well as the teacher. However, I benefited from the book and I would like to think that I have gained more experience since completing the CELTA over 10 years ago. Nevertheless, this book is a great read and is not too overwhelming.

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