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Teaching with Students' 4 Needs in Mind: Community

Teaching with Students' 4 Needs in Mind: Community


Humans need to belong to a community. We need to belong as much as we need food or air. When we don’t feel like we belong, we are more likely to get physically sick. We even feel physical pain when we don’t belong.

The pain receptors in our brain show the same reaction to both physical and emotional pain, so feeling left out has the same effect as being punched in the stomach.


The need to belong is an inherited trait in humans. Our earliest ancestors had to live and work together in groups to survive. Being alone meant death. Our human brains still interpret being alone as dangerous and painful.

Just as students can’t learn if they don’t feel safe, students can’t learn if they don’t feel like they belong in the classroom.

As the teacher, you can create a classroom atmosphere that gives your students that sense of belonging they desperately need. Sadly, for some students, your classroom will be the only place they feel they belong.


Here are some ideas to build a community in your classroom:

  1. Greet every student at the door most mornings.

  2. Use students’ names when you are talking to them.

  3. Talk to students about their interests outside of school.

  4. Go out to recess with your class occasionally.

  5. Take time to help your students get to know each other.

  6. Have students work with different people regularly.

  7. Listen when students talk to you.

  8. Put pictures of the students on the wall. Students especially love it when you take candid pictures of them and post these around the classroom.

  9. Refer to your classroom community as “we” and “us.”

  10. Create a classroom name, chant, song, etc…

  11. Compete as a classroom. You can do this when your school is collecting boxtops or canned food as a school competition.

  12. Celebrate the achievements of individual students as a classroom. For example, if a student wins a basketball game over the weekend, celebrate that as a classroom because a member of the community was successful.

  13. Have students help make the rules for the classroom.

  14. Hold class meetings regularly to discuss issues within the classroom and make decisions as a community.

  15. Let your students hear you brag about them to others. You can brag about individual students or the entire class.

  16. Set classroom goals. These can be academic goals (everyone passes the multiplication test) or extracurricular goals (each student does one random act of kindness in a week).

  17. Smile. Even when you are exhausted, smile at your students.

  18. Share how you are feeling with your students. Let them know that the classroom is a safe space to express feelings.

  19. Laugh. Laugh with your students as often as possible.

  20. Share with parents how grateful you are to have their children as a part of your community. You can make phone calls, write notes, or send emails, but make sure the parents know you love having their children in your community.


Hopefully, you are smiling now thinking about how wonderful it would feel to be a part of the community described in the 20 suggestions. You are probably already doing a lot of these things. If you are, keep doing them!

What do you do to make your classroom a community? Share your thoughts in the comments, so other teachers can learn from you as a part of this Productive Teacher Community!

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