SOLC Day 3: Building On Our Strengths

March 2021 SOLC–Day 3
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.

We’ve been working face-to-face in a continually evolving hybrid model all year. In general, classes were split into two smaller groups and one group came on Mondays and Wednesdays, while the other group came on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They alternated Fridays. Some students (students of staff, students receiving SDI, etc) came all 5 days. We created daily agendas that spelled out, in detail, what work to do on their “at home” learning days. It’s been intense but we’ve gotten used to it. The kids have been amazing!

During the year, other grades in our Pre-K-8 school with smaller class sizes have been able to come back full time. Finally, this past Monday, after much consideration, creative thinking, organizing, and the completion of a new modular unit built with CARES money, all 3rd and 4th grade students came back, too. I’m not going to elaborate about the model that we’re in now. Suffice it to say that it’s a work in progress, but after mini-lessons, we’re rotating out small groups of children with an extra adult for independent work in a different space. That way we can continue to have a bit more space for our workshop style of learning. Once again, we’re calling on kids to make big changes and show ongoing flexibility as we work out the kinks.

Prior to Monday, my teaching partner and I put a lot of thought into how to support our students as we build new classroom communities. Many of them haven’t seen each other in over a year. Some of them have never been in class together. Some of them are new to our school this year and have never met each other before. We wanted kids to enter this expanded classroom with a positive lens, thinking about their own strengths and what they bring to the team.

So, on the first day back, after time for greetings and logistical explanations, we carved some time out of our regular schedule.

“Think about the strongest communities you have been a part of–your scouting groups, classes, families, book clubs, partnerships, etc. Now think, what makes them so strong? What makes a powerful community or group?” I asked.

Hands flew up.

“Being kind,” someone offered. I jotted it on the board.

“Listening to each other,” another student volunteered. That went on the board as well.

“Having a sense of humor!”

“Being flexible!”

“Being optimistic!”

Soon we had an impressive list of strengths compiled.

“So, now that we’re all back together, we’re building a new community,” I said, ” and each of us brings many strengths with us. Think about yourself. What is one strength or trait you bring to our new community? You can use our list to help you, or you might think of something else entirely.”

I asked them to depict their contributing strength (or two or three) in words and/or illustrations on a “brick” and then color it.

Here are a couple of finished products:

After collecting them all, here’s what my colleague and I created on the hallway bulletin board between our rooms. We’re still a few blocks shy with some absent students, but we’re pretty pleased.

Today when I get to school, I’m going to add the final words in the upper right corner:

Building On Our Strengths!!!

I can’t wait to see the kids’ reactions when they come in this morning and see what they’ve already created together.

25 thoughts on “SOLC Day 3: Building On Our Strengths

  1. Brick by brick you are rebuilding your community, Molly. This is what our students need now. It sounds like you are well on your way! Best of luck to all!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cara Wegrzyn says:

    This is us! It’s strange to be doing this type of community-building in March, isn’t it? But this is where we are, and this is what we need, so we do it. What a great discussion with the students!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOVE the student work photos. Thanks for including. Shairng with teacher friends….your idea may be replicated in VA! Your slice shows how important spending time building a community is to you. Keep up this brilliant work!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. margaretsmn says:

    What a wonderful way to build a community, with each brick (child) contributing to the whole. I love it! Good luck with your new normal. I think Work in Progress is the mantra of 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. cbferris says:

    What a wonderful way to help them deal with all of the changes and be a part of it!

    On Wed, Mar 3, 2021, 6:25 AM Nix the comfort zone wrote:

    > mbhmaine posted: ” March 2021 SOLC–Day 3A huge thank you to Two Writing > Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and > a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow. > We’ve been working face-to-face ” >

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Patty McLaughlin says:

    Molly, this is great! All the best to the staff and students as they adjust (again!)to a new normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a great idea! Thank you for sharing. Your students are lucky to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tim Gels says:

    It’s inspiring (awe inspiring, actually) to see the different ways teachers are working to build community in their classrooms. I work in several different schools and see a lot of things; the classrooms with a sense of community are so much happier (and productive, I’ll add) than those which lack it. Thanks for sharing the student work, and for all you do!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Trina says:

    I love what your students had to say! They are so smart!

    We are transitioning to 4 days in my high school in less than a month. There are still a lot of unknowns. I am curious to hear how other districts are navigating yet another change!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. cbeaulac says:

    I love this question “What makes a powerful community or group?” and your kids had such spot on answers!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kd0602 says:

    I love this Molly! I may have to steal as we merge from two halves of a class into a whole next month. I’m stashing this idea in my back pocket!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Love this idea! Building on strengths. Now that you are at the front of the line for Covid vaccines, when will you get yours?


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