Quick Tip Tuesday: Creating “familia” in your classroom

January 13th, 2009

In Robin Turner’s high school English class in Anaheim, California, students are more than just classmates, they are family, or familia. Robin works hard throughout the year to create this sense of family in his class, with a common mission: to help students get into a four-year university and succeed once they get there. “This concept of familia permeates every activity of the class,” Robin writes in his book, Greater Expectations. In this week’s tip, Robin explains why familia is so important in his class and suggests ten quick ways to help foster the concept.

The need to belong is so strong in this digitized generation that to facilitate a sense of community, or familia, can be a powerful motivating force for adolescents. In my class I try to never lose sight of the students who otherwise would get lost and be forgotten in the classroom – too often, such student is the underrepresented student – and instead, I actively work to draw those students into the mainstream of the class. Learning and using my students’ names within the first two days, creating a seating arrangement that leaves no one stranded in a corner, getting kids to interact on a near-daily basis, and conveying messages purposefully with the displays on my classroom walls – these are some of the techniques I use to accomplish familia in the classroom. Here are ten quick ways to help foster the concept of familia:

1. Take pictures of your students at prom, sporting events, assemblies, in class, and other places and post them in your classroom.
2. Try to find something to talk about with each student – their job, sports, clubs, hobbies, or music. A quick moment or two of conversation about something personal can make a lasting impact on a student.
3. Display student work on your wall.
4. Teach students how to have a classroom discussion. Have them use each other’s names in conversation. Make sure your students know each other’s names.
5. Bring back past students for quick talks of how your class has benefited them. Let your students see that they are part of a community of students who have gone on to be successful.
6. Set up writing groups as soon as possible. Have your students react to student work as quickly as possible. In an English class, it isn’t enough to be a community; we need to be a community of readers and writers with plans for future academic success.
7. Let students see that you are part of their community. Laugh at their jokes, show them your own struggles with writing, and listen to their criticism of your own writing.
8. Listen to students’ music during writing time after previewing the lyrics.
9. Make time outside the classroom to foster community. This past year, I have used my lunch break to play cards, video games, and Pictionary with my students, and have spent after-school time to eat hamburgers and attend plays, bonfires, and movies with groups of students.
10. When conferring with a student about a paper, suggest another student to look at it as well. A community of writers is the goal here.

The most important thing I have learned is to be interested in my students. I have found that if I start with that, everything else falls into place.

Later in his book, Robin talks about writing assignments that further foster the concept of familia.

Entry Filed under: Classroom practice,Quick Tip Tuesday

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