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Building a vibrant learning community

For teachers the beginning of every school year is a time to establish and nurture the characteristics of a vibrant learning community based on respect, empathy, risk-taking, best effort, advocacy of every student voice, recognition of what unites us, celebration of the unique contributions each child has to offer, identifying and fostering student passions, and building routines that support rich learning.

Our hallway walls, classroom charts, and the interactions between students and teachers demonstrate the range of ways our teachers work to build vibrant, learning-focused communities that value students and their growth.

In Kindergarten you can see how children learn to take turns, listen with their whole bodies, share thinking in class discussions and speaking kindly. On the walls you see pictures that reveal students interests and what makes them unique.

In first grade students explore each other’s interests and skills during morning meeting discussions. From the very first week of school first graders learn each other’s names, explore good listening behaviors, and begin identifying the characteristics of a learning environment that helps them learn best.


In second grade, students explore the nuances of good listening, identify respectful ways of talking to each other, investigate the characteristics of good community members and share what they need from peers to feel supported and challenged. On classroom walls there are help sheets that explain how students should work together, manage themselves and keep on track. These help sheets are created by students based on peer comments about what they need from each other.

Third graders begin the year by exploring what makes each of them unique and what it means to be a risk-taker. They investigate ways to work productively together, give helpful feedback, and learn from other’s feedback. All students identify ways the class community could support them as learners.

Fourth graders explore characteristics of a dedicated learning community. Students collaboratively develop agreements they believe will support, challenge and celebrate every learner. Lea, a fourth grader says, “we make agreements that help us work together in school and out of school. They help us do our best work…and they help us help each other.”

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Fifth graders explore the interests and skills of their classmates with a variety of “get to know each other” activities. Some classes have a daily question which they discuss with lunch buddies. The lunch buddies change every day so all students get to sit with each other and learn about each other. In class, students investigate what unites them (their similarities) and what distinguishes them (their unique interests and skills). Students share ways to offer and learn from feedback, ways to revise so they produce their best work, and ways to stretch themselves by embracing challenges.

In music, students embrace singing in a variety of group sizes and configurations. Our teachers enthusiastically draw out beat, pitch and tone. Children excitedly take turns to play or sing in a well-crafted learning environment that evokes children’s confidence to share.

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In PE, teachers set up swimming routines. Students are encouraged to take risks by choosing a swim group that will challenge them to grow the most. Each day’s learning intentions are made clear to students, and there is much useful and caring feedback provided to nurture continued growth.

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We have a community of teachers who value and nurture every child through their actions and words.  (Tracey Reed, ES Instructional Technology Coach)