Inside: Learn how to build your classroom community with a fun and engaging community building strategy that lasts all year long!
How do you think building a stronger classroom community would help your class, right now? (Or if the school year hasn’t begun yet, how would it help to get started on the right foot?) The truth is, having a strong classroom community can make or break your school year! I’m excited to share a new teaching strategy that will help you build your classroom community. And, as a bonus, it also students builds student writing skills!
This strategy is called Secret Student Writing. To give a basic synopsis before we really dive in deep, you will assign each student another student in the class, and they will be their “Secret Student.” Each child will be writing kind letters AND doing kind things for their assigned peer, WITHOUT revealing who they are.
These activities are so fun and engaging for the kids because the kids LOVE doing things for their secret student and being sneaky about it! It is also a great way for students to practice their writing skills because you can assign them a new writing prompt each day and they will be responding to it.
So how do Secret Student activities build classroom community?
They promote kindness.
As we all know, there is a lot of negativity in our world. You just need to turn on the news or scroll through your social feed to see it. And our kids see and feel it, too. And sometimes kids aren’t very nice to each other, either. But doing a secret student activity helps students to really think about how they are treating each other and show more kindness to each other. This helps students on both the giving and receiving end. The students will feel so loved getting the letters from another student, but it also feels really good to write them, too. This kindness is what builds your classroom community.
Lara J. loved the Halloween “BOO” version of the Secret Student! She said, “This is so fun!! My students are loving this activity! We are planning a big reveal party at the end of the month and they are being so nice to each other!”
Secret Student activities build classroom community as you continue the activities through the year.
As you promote kindness among each other, the classroom community grows stronger. This happens especially as you continue doing activities like this on a regular basis.
Patricia R. saw this happen in her classroom! She said, “These activities really make the student think about being kind to others. My class behavior has improved tremendously since starting these activities. They revert back to their old behavior quickly without this to keep them accountable.”
The activities for a variety of classrooms, ages, and abilities.
No matter what grade you teach, as long as your students are writing, you can do this activity. This works great for classrooms of many grade levels, whether you have a wide variety of abilities or not. It is also great for inclusive classrooms, special education, homeschool groups, or other settings where you may even have a variety of ages doing it.
Lindsey B loved the differentiated pages. She bought the year-long bundle and said “Absolutely amazing resource to have monthly activities! Excellent that you can differentiate for students. Students have become excited to write and do this activity!”
Bonus: They help students build their writing skills.
The great thing about doing a secret student writing activity is that the students will be writing regularly. The activities are built off of classroom community building writing prompts. This regular writing practice adds up and helps students build their writing skills. You can request that students use their best grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary in their writing. And because much of the activity is writing prompt based, it isn’t too difficult to fit into your daily routine. It could be a prompt the students do first thing in the morning, or right after coming in from lunch or recess.
Most importantly… the kids LOVE the activities and the classroom community built!
They really do. They beg to do more. After all, keeping a secret and being sneaky is FUN. The kids love doing kind things for each other. And they LOVE getting their letters from someone secret. Once you do your first secret student activity, your students will beg to do it again and again!
Jennifer, from Texas Aggie Teacher, said that “My kids are totally obsessed with these secret pals from Wife Teacher Mommy! They ask me every month what’s next. You can use her writing prompts or create your own. Plus, there’s a way to keep them accountable to be sure everyone participates.”
Why did I create these classroom community building activities?
So now that you understand why I’m so passionate about these, I’ll share a little background about why I started these activities in the first place. One of the first resources I created for my TPT store was my Secret Santa Writing, which is part of the Student Writing Bundle.
I had just had my first child (who is now 5) and was staying home at the time, but I wanted to take this into a classroom and teach it so my dear friend let me borrow her classroom and teach the intro lesson. The intro lesson starts with a story about a boy named Andy who likes to pick on his fellow classmate, Carlos. So Santa notices this, and sends him this letter:
As you can guess, through this experience Andy and Carlos became friends. The story ends with an invitation for all of the students in the class to become a Secret Santa to another classmate. This will build the classroom community! Then, the students will each be assigned a student using the name cards, and then record them on the recording sheets.
Classroom Community Building Writing Prompts
During the activity, the students will have a new writing prompt each day or however you opt to assign the prompts. For each of these prompts, the students will write a kind letter to their assigned student, and sign it as their secret Santa. With these activities, 10 pre-written classroom community building writing prompts are included for you to give to your students. These can be projected on the board or written down (I recommend projecting the slides onto the board!)
Now, I want to show you a few cute examples from when I took this activity into my friend’s class a few years ago. (The resource HAS been re-designed since to be more visually appealing, but these letters were too cute not to share!) Here’s one example of what one of the students wrote to their peer:
Classroom Community Building Report to Me Writing Prompts
In addition to the letters to their peer, there are a few “report to me” prompts. These are for the student to report to YOU the kind things they have been doing for their peer. Because they shouldn’t only be writing the letters, but they should also be looking for ways to secretly help their classmate. This is really how the classroom community is built- because EVERYONE has someone looking out for them, and the kids are trying to do their best to be kind to each other.
The activities end with a fun reveal activity. You can always do the reveal however you’d like, but one fun idea is to put these cards on the students’ backs and have them go around the room asking yes or no questions about who their classmate may be. You could also have the students go around the room and guess/ reveal and have each student have their own name and take it to their person. This is such a fun classroom-community affirming activity. The nice thing is, the student names will already have auto-populated onto these pages, because you only needed to type them once and they auto-populate throughout the document as needed.
Lacy D loved this auto-populating feature, along with many other parts of the Secret Student activities! She left the following review about the Halloween “Boo” activity; “The staff at my school do this same activity but with small gifts and my class had asked me what it meant by the sign on the door that said, “you’ve been boo’d”. I explained to them about the exchange and showing that you care for someone else and so many of them wished they could do that too so when I saw this pop up in my email I knew I had to get it. It has every component you could think of and I LOVE the auto fill when you type your names in once, it fills it in all the other items you need. GREAT PRODUCT!!!”
Themed activities to build your classroom community for EVERY month of the year!
While the Secret Santa was the first one… I later created a version for EVERY month of the school year. This includes fun activities such as: Back to School (yet to be released and added to the growing bundle), Halloween “Boo”, Thankful Turkeys, Friendly Snowman, Secret Valentine, Sneaky Leprechaun, Some-BUNNY is Looking Out for You, and End of the Year Awards!
By doing all of the activities, the students will have the opportunity to write to a new peer each month. This makes the classroom community very strong as the students are all looking out for each other all year long!
You can grab the full secret student writing bundle and save 20% off the full price below!
You can also purchase individual units if you want to just try one to start. The Secret Student units are available below, or in my Teachers pay Teachers store.
Easter Writing Activity- Spring Writing Prompts- Secret Some-BUNNY$6.00 Add to cart
End of the Year Activities and Awards, Secret Student Writing$6.00 Add to cart
Secret Santa Writing- Christmas Writing Prompts and Unit$6.00 Add to cart
St. Patrick’s Day Writing Activity- Sneaky Leprechaun Writing Prompts$6.00 Add to cart
Valentine’s Day Writing Activity- Secret Valentine Writing Prompts.$6.00 Add to cart
If you’ve used these activities in your classroom, I’d love to hear all about it in the comments! How did these activities improve your classroom community?