Creating a Kind Classroom: A Lesson to Start the New School Year

September 10, 2013

Students think about how to create a kind, caring classroom using an interactive poem and a drawing activity. 

  • Hugg-a-planet or other "talking piece" (See our Introduction to Circles activity for an explanation of talking pieces.) 
  • Paper or large index cards and markers
  • Print out of poem or poem written on the board for students to follow along

Name game welcome

Invite students to stand in a circle.  Go around one student at a time asking students to introduce themselves in the following way:  

"My name is __________________ [person's name]"

Have the rest of the class welcome the person by responding:  
"Hello ____________________ [person's name]!"

Debrief this opening go round by asking some or all of the following questions: 
  • What was that like for you?
  • How did it feel?
Summarize what students share and add that it feels good to be part of a welcoming community, where people greet us, welcome us and are kind to us.  That's what we'll be talking about today.

Circle share out

Next, invite students to sit in a circle on the rug.  Send the hugg-a-planet, or another talking piece, around, asking students to share their name, once more, and one thing they enjoyed doing over the summer.


Mother Nature Interactive Poem

Invite students to stand up in a circle.  Share with them the following poem while students follow your movements.  
(Note: This poem is from the book Conscious Discipline.  Author Becky Bailey writes that "some poems lend themselves to the addition of stretching movements. Children also can write their own poems that promote the stretching of the body and encompass deep breathing." She offers the following poem, which is modified from Martha Belknap's work.)
I bow to mother nature  (everyone does a forward bend)
I reach to father sky  (reach up with both arms straight over head) 
I open to the sun  (open both arms to be parallel with the ground)
And the clouds going by (arms sway overhead)
I welcome the rain  (lower your arms to the side with fingers moving) 
That flows to the sea  (roll your shoulders forward and backward)
I respect the kindness (turn to a partner and bend to take a small bow) 
In you and in me  (point to your partner and then to yourself)
Debrief this poem/activity by asking some of all of the following questions:
  • What did you think about the poem?
  • How does the poem invite us to treat mother nature, father sky and the environment as a whole?
  • How can we do that? 
  • What does it say about kindness?
  • How does that relate to our classroom environment?
  • What would kindness in our classroom environment look like?

Drawing a kind classroom

Ask students on a small piece of paper or large index card to draw a picture of "respecting kindness" in the classroom.  What does kindness to each other look like? What does it feel like? For younger grades use some questions to scaffold the activity:

  • Think about a person in your life who is kind.  What do they do when they're being kind?
  • Think about yourself when you're being kind.  What do you do when you're being kind? How do other people respond to you when you're being kind? 

Back in the circle ask students to present and share their drawings with the rest of the class, explaining what they drew and why.  

Consider having a place available in your class for the drawings to go up after students have had a chance to share.  This will be a way to return to the idea of a kind classroom throughout the year. Students can keep working on their art, and reflect on it when unkind acts interfere with the kind of classroom community you're all trying to build.