4 Ways to Build Community

If you try this activity with your students, we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.

Discipline: These activities can be applied in any class or subject area though they do not have direct ties to content. With some creative thinking, you can make those connections by choosing prompts or actions related to what you are teaching that day. 

Age level: All

Time: 5-10 minutes (Some of these activities can take longer depending on your goals.) 

The core of community building is about being seen, heard, known, and appreciated for who you are. So we recommend lots of activities in which students deepen their knowledge of each other in these areas. 

Uncommon Commonalities

Assign or have students choose partners (if it’s the start of the school year it might be good to assign partners so they work with someone they don’t know). In pairs students take a few minutes to identify things they have in common that it is unlikely anyone else in class will also have in common. You can determine how many they should identify based on how much time you have in class. Consider offering this guidance: 

In a moment you’ll work in pairs to identify 2 things you and your partner have in common that are not things other people in our group are likely to share. So for example, being students in this class is a COMMON commonality in this group, but having pet hermit crabs may not be. Living in DC, Maryland, or Virginia is probably common for several of us here but catching a crab with a piece of bacon is probably not. So ask each other questions and see how uncommon a commonality you can discover. 

Have students share what they’ve found with the rest of the class and invite students to chime in if they share the uncommon commonalities as well (consider using the “me too” gesture from sign language). For added challenge, in a future class consider the same activity with trios or groups of four. 


DJ for a day 

Creating a playlist for your class can be an ongoing project and music can be a great tool for getting to know each other. You can do this in many different ways over the span of the year. Here are a few approaches: 

  • Invite students to work alone or in partners to create a playlist of 5 songs related to a particular theme – themes could tie to the content you are teaching (songs about the weather, songs about energy, songs about division, or revolution) they could tie to things unrelated to content but focused on your community needs (songs to play when we’re writing, songs to get us pumped up for the day, songs to calm up down). 
  • Invite students to bring in a favorite song and share it with the class explaining why they like it. Compile all the songs into a playlist you use during breaks or as students enter at the start of class. 
  • Have each student ask a family member for a song that reminds them of that student and why. Compile and share these songs with the class and families. 

You can often find songs for free on youtube but playing these can be a little tricky with ads and the videos are often more distracting than helpful (unless you’re analyzing them as texts which can be amazing to do!) You can also use streaming services to create playlists. There are free subscriptions to things like Pandora or Spotify which come with ads but those are usually not too distracting. 

Sometimes the songs students share will be explicit and there are a couple of workarounds for this. 

  1. Choose a Kidz Bop version (these are recreations of popular songs without curse words) if one exists.
  2. Be clear with students about the qualities of songs you can share (i.e. they cannot have curse words, if that is a rule in your class or school). 
  3. Consider having a conversation with your students about what constitutes “appropriate” for classroom listening. The discussion will be powerful and as long as school rules do not prevent you from doing so, you can potentially come up with your own criteria as a class for what songs everyone feels good about playing. 


3 Fun Facts

Put students in pairs and have them interview each other to come up with 3 fun facts about one another that they’re comfortable having shared with the class. Have the interviewer introduce the interviewee sharing these fun facts. This is a good exercise to build questioning, listening, and retelling skills. 


Planning a Spontaneous Trip 

Have students work in pairs or small groups and provide them with this prompt: You have been given an all-expenses paid 3-day trip to anywhere you like and you must figure out where you’re going and what you’ll do each day. Groups quickly plan a trip, working together to come up with a location and experiences that address everyone’s interests within the group. Have groups share their travel itineraries. 

This activity can be done quickly and can depend on a short time frame for planning to generate quick thinking and spontaneity, or, this lends itself well to a larger project that can teach several skills and potentially tie into content you need to teach if you make the location specific to geography you’re studying, or tie budgeting to the planning process for building practical math skills, or require creating a travel agency presentation to building speaking, listening, and composition skills. You can find a full description of a larger activity like this here.


Inspired Teaching Connection: 

These activities are all grounded in Mutual Respect because they focus on community building as a core component of the learning experience. In this way they also address the 4 I’s, engaging students’ Intellects, Inquiry (by delving into how they and others feel), Imagination (through metaphor and imagery), and Integrity (caring for themselves and one another).

See our instructional model here.

Standards Addressed by this Activity

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Knowledge of Language:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.


Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies

Self-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.

Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.

Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.

Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.

Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.

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