CONSTRUCTING A COMMUNITY WITHIN THE CLASSROOM OR HOME:
CELEBRATING THROUGH PARADES
Creating a physical, emotional, and academic environment in which each person has a voice and purpose is a great way to make a class run smoothly while enriching the students. Getting-to-know-you and community building activities are crucial in this endeavor. Helping your students feel closer to you and one another may happen naturally over the course of your time with them, but getting a head-start by jumping into an exercise that gets all member active and involved will improve the liveliness of any classroom.
I tried a very quick and easy community activity: an in-class parade! Everyone was involved, prancing around the room making noise and motions that allowed each of us to express our individualities and emotions. Parades create group awareness and communication. It also promotes fine and gross motor skills, develops balance and coordination, and may allow the students to explore their classroom.
Because I have been working on a Halloween-Monstery-Mythical theme in my after school program at Mark Twain Elementary, I transported these ideas into the parade. I wrote monster body parts on the board, such as snake hair, chainsaw arms, laser eyes, dinosaur feet, and octopus legs; we acted each of them out one by one using both sound and action. Then, everyone chose their favorite beastly body part, and we got into a frightening procession of ghoulish fragments, making a Frankenstein’s monster of students and volunteers.
To start, I asked everyone to partner up, touching one boy part (such as an elbow, hand, foot) to their partner’s chosen body part (such as their back, thigh, or knee). I believe physical contact is important in community building; it requires an element of trust. This way would also allow students who don’t feel comfortable being touched to find peace—they can choose where they are touching. However, we eventually merge into one train, mostly with a hand or two on the shoulders of the person in front of us. We circled around the room several times, communicating and revealing our inner creatures.
Parades are a great community activity—they require little to no props, can last as long as you have time for, and allow students to get their pent up energy out or wake them up. All ages and skill levels are welcome to participate, and it can be used in academic, special needs, and vocational classrooms alike. You can also take whatever theme your class is working on and bring it into the parade; it doesn’t have to be monster based. You could have each student choose their favorite letter from the alphabet and act it out while pronouncing the sound. You could have them say mantras or sing songs, celebrate holidays or cultures, or just be silly and creative (“Act like a snowflake/leaf falling,” “Be a paintbrush and write or draw something as you’re walking,” etc.). As you can see, you can make the activity as challenging and engaging as you want by estimating how comfortable your students will feel.
Parents could also bring this to their home; having a family parade or dancing around the house party is a great way to celebrate accomplishments big or small, such as being ready on time, achieving good grades, or finding the missing piece to a favorite game.
If you want to keep with the monstrous theme of Halloween, fantasy, or mythology, there are many, many, too many other activities to try out:
-Fold’n’pass: Everyone folds a paper into thirds and draws eyes on the top third of the paper, passes it for the second person to draw the nose and ears, and the third person draws the mouth.
-Descriptive drawing and communicating: Everyone draws a monster and partners up with a person across the room, keeping their drawing a secret. They use an abundant amount of adjectives to describe their monsters and ask each other questions, while trying to recreate their partner’s monster using the provided details. They final results could be hung up next to one another for everyone to see who asks the best questions or uses the best combination descriptive words.
-Magic tricks: ask everyone to learn and present a magic trick they know to the class.
-Mad Libs based on fairy tales, fantasy stories, or myths.
-Making up magic words: have the students make up magic words and define what they do (galoopanirdy means my little brother will wash the dishes instead of me!). It may be helpful to write out the words and definitions. They could also act their spells out with one another.
~ By Chelsea Essing