Building School-Wide Community

Last year at the end of the year, the administration asked all of our students to fill out a survey about our school culture and climate. When the results came back, we were pretty discouraged. Over half of our students reported that they don't feel respected at school. HALF. We are a PBIS school and all teachers use components of Responsive Classroom and Love & Logic techniques school-wide, but something more had to be done.

This summer, our PBIS team caught wind of another school in our district that organized their students into "families." Similar to how high schools have homerooms, every student is assigned a family and stay in that family for their entire time at our school. This idea could be the ticket to getting our school community back on track!
Strengthen your school community by establishing school-wide family groups! Similar to homerooms in high school, a family group consists of students from each grade at your school that travel together as a cohort for their entire time at the school.
We have three goals for the family groups: 
1. To foster a positive school environment
2. To teach character education
3. For students to get to know other children and adults in the building they might not come in contact with.
Every single faculty and staff member in the building belongs to a family: from classroom teachers to interventionists; specialists to special education; pupil services, administration, custodial staff, and even the cook... everyone has a "home."

It took our counselor and school psychologist about 3 hours to thoughtfully place all of the students into 28 family groups. Part of their strategy was to place some of the hard-to-connect-with kiddos with fourth and fifth grade teachers. Let's build those relationships NOW, so that when they get into the upper grades, the connections will already be there!

My family group consists of myself and our library aide, and we have 16 students in our family group, 2-3 students from each grade, kindergarten to fifth grade.

How It Works

Every Wednesday from 2:30 to 3:00, the entire school transitions to their family groups. The principal makes an announcement for the fifth graders pick up the kindergarteners, the fourth graders to pick up the first graders, and the second and third graders just go on their own to their family group classroom. I will admit the very first meeting was a little hairy, as the entire school met in the gym to learn who their family group teachers would be... But now that we are two months in, the transition is fairly quick and only takes about 3 minutes.

At 3:00, the principal comes back on the announcements to end the family group time. The fifth graders and fourth graders walk their younger students back to class, and then we get ready to go home (we dismiss at 3:10).

What We Teach

I am on the team who writes the lessons for each session. We do our best to provide everything the faculty and staff needs to complete the lessons with little to no prep for them, even down to the exact words they can say for each part of the lesson. We wrote the lessons using a combination of the Morning Meeting and TCRWP Minilesson structure. Each lesson has an objective, usually related to a character trait. We start the lesson with a greeting, then there is a Teach, followed by the students actively engaged in whatever the objective of the lesson is. At the end, we send the kiddos off with a Link, just a final sentence or two relating back to the lesson objective.

Our first three sessions were focused on community building. We came up with a family name, took a photo, made a poster for our group, and set goals for ourselves for this school year.
Strengthen your school community by establishing school-wide family groups! Similar to homerooms in high school, a family group consists of students from each grade at your school that travel together as a cohort for their entire time at the school.
After that, we took the next four sessions to review our school rules: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe, Be Trustworthy.

Click HERE if you want a copy of the safety flip book pictured above.

Now that we have established our families and reviewed the school rules, we are going to switch to meeting every other week. The topics that we cover are going to be based on our PBIS data and what our students need. Our upcoming lessons are going to be about empathy, giving, perseverance, acts of kindness, and being thankful. Lesson plans are flexible, and so if we need to throw in a few lessons on respect, we can do that. We are also planning on having each group do some kind of fun send off for their fifth graders at the end of the year.

Benefits of Family Groups

I don't have any hard data, but walking through the hallways, I can definitely feel a difference. Whether or not it's related to the establishment of our family groups, I don't know. But I do know that I have fifth graders who know my name, and smile and greet me every time we pass each other. I have had three K-2 students from my family group who have traded in their PBIS tickets to hang out with me and play with Legos during recess.

There is a real camaraderie and family feel in the building. I love how the older students take the younger students under their wings and act as a mentor to them. We all feel like we belong and are in this thing called "school" together.
Strengthen your school community by establishing school-wide family groups! Similar to homerooms in high school, a family group consists of students from each grade at your school that travel together as a cohort for their entire time at the school.
And our hallways are too cute with all of the family group projects and activities we've created!



Do you do something similar to this at your school? Let me know about it in the comments! And if you're feeling like your school climate needs to be lifted, share this idea with your administration. We need to take care of students' hearts before we can fill their brains.

Want to save this post for later? Pin the image below:
Strengthen your school community by establishing school-wide family groups! Similar to homerooms in high school, a family group consists of students from each grade at your school that travel together as a cohort for their entire time at the school.




2 comments

  1. Thanks for the wonderful post about this amazing program. I would really love to start something like this at my school. I am wondering how many students and staff you have.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We have about 430 students in grades K-5, and about 60 faculty/staff. Good luck making it work for you! It's truly amazing!!

      Delete

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I *love* reading comments!! Make sure you are a no reply blogger or leave your email address so we can stay in touch!

Back to Top