As teachers, you see every day how much a sense of belonging matters to kids and to all of us. We act differently when we believe that we belong. The classroom is a wonderful place to establish a sense of belonging for everyone.
This can be done through rituals that you create among the students. Something as simple and starting and ending the class the same way each day reinforces a sense of belonging. You can think about how to make ordinary moments special. For example, instead of calling roll, you can have each student decorate a special rock at the beginning of the year and they put the rock in the basket on your desk when they arrive in class. This conveys several things, you are a rock,, you are a part of this community, you are creative (decoration of the rock).
Scientific studies have proven that a sense of belonging increases the likelihood of staying in school, made kids appreciate school more, and resulted in higher grades! A sense of belonging also correlates with increased positive emotions, increased life satisfaction and greater meaning in life.
To create a sense of belonging in your classroom try these things:
- Create Rituals: Create things that uniquely happen in your classroom. This helps students feel like they are a part of something bigger and that they belong in a group. You can also create a special bond with each individual student by having something you share uniquely with them. See the handshake video below.
- Writing Exercises: Ask students to write about the following prompts or come up with some of your own. For younger students, ask them to draw pictures and tell stories.
- What does it mean to you to belong? Write about at time when you had a strong sense of belonging.
- How can you help others feel that they belong?
- What are the things in this school/classroom that make you feel like you belong?