Shared experiences are what bond a group together. Whether the group is taking a nature walk, creating art, or sharing personal reflections about music or literature, it is all part of the process we need to share with our students. I believe that these experiences can all be linked to and integrated into the curriculum you teach.

But it is also true that you don’t have to justify everything you do by attaching a standard or strand to it. In fact, just last week, my principal emailed the staff saying this would be a good time of year to take some time and revisit those community building experiences. Sharing experiences and building community can and should be done just to be done. It creates that safe learning environment you want in your room and with your students. It allows students to share their work, ideas and plans more openly with you. And building community is a skill our students will need for the rest of their lives.

One year, I had a second grade class who truly loved our daily listening time during snack. We listened, reflected and shared every day. Students talked about the music freely and after a while, even spoke about it in their free time to one another.

“I liked your idea about how Beethoven must have really felt sad and angry at the same time when he composed that piece of music,” I heard a girl say to another one day at recess. It was then that I had that “great teacher feeling”. What I was doing was working! Those students were connecting on a new level. They felt comfortable talking with one another even outside of our Active Listening time in class.

That year I also got a great compliment about my class during field day. “Your kids work really well together,” said a parent volunteer in charge of one of the stations. “They have great communication and really look around to see what and who is where.” That made me beam!

I probably can’t attribute all that great teamwork to actively listening to music each day, BUT I know that those times, those experiences we shared were real and they surely contributed to a sense of community.

So, as I finish this series for the month, what have I learned? Here is a list:
• Take the time to create experiences.
• Start early in the year.
• Continue throughout the year.
• Be spontaneous sometimes.
• Keep in mind the life skills that are being taught!