Our Community Area is a large space where we gather for meetings, lessons, and read-alouds. It gives students an unobstructed view of the Smartboard for shared texts and e-books; the space gives children seats on the floor or in chairs around the perimeter of the space. Our Community Board is on the large whiteboard next to our Smartboard. This information station is signed and called the Community Board because it displays information that affects the entire community. The Community Board provides the following information for my students:
- Morning Message and Chores List
- Daily Schedule
- Lunch Menu/Reminder to sign in for lunch on the Smartboard
- Special Events Schedule
- Morning Meeting Presenters
How does a Community Board help students read and navigate informational resources? Learning to read lists, calendars, procedures, and schedules is a priceless life skill. We often assume children have already mastered this kind of informational reading because these texts are such short documents. This is not the case. If you want your students to be independent and organized, model this kind of practical list-making for them and give them daily practice with reading schedules and to-do lists. I’ve learned I cannot assume that students master these kinds of organizational skills at home. It is helpful for developing children to see a calendar, to-do lists, and a daily schedule and to discover their uses.
The Community Board is an anchor display that reassures all kinds of learners. Think about how predictable schedules, a chore list, and a morning message could help a child get focused and mindful about starting the day. Posting a morning message begins each day with a positive note from you, making each child feel welcomed and valued. As adults, especially teachers, reading condensed and organized information is second nature, and we make and read to-do lists with the ease of flipping on light switches and opening curtains when we enter our rooms each morning. Children need to see such models in action and practice reading this kind of informational text in a supportive and authentic manner. At first glance, the Community Board appears to be minor window dressing in our classroom; with closer observations, this anchor display provides social structures and informational reading opportunities with critical benefits for all students.
On the first day of school, I introduce students to our arrival and morning meeting procedures. The first day of school can feel awkward. When kids first arrive, I ask them to find their names at a temporary table, place their backpacks, supplies, and lunch boxes on the table, and meet me at the carpet. We will deal with “the stuff” in due time. Once we gather in our Community Area and those first introductions are over, everyone is eager to move and get on with the process of learning about our community.
Arrival procedures are our first community lesson. My students are lucky enough to have assigned lockers in which to store their backpacks and coats. (We had our custodians adjust the locks so that students do not need combinations to open their lockers. This has been a tremendous help and has saved our sanity in infinite ways.) I talk to the kids about our expected morning routines. You arrive, put your lunch boxes in the lunch tub in the hallway right outside our door, and then put your backpacks away. Once you enter the classroom, you head right to the Community Board and read the information. The date, lunch options, morning message, day’s schedule, and morning chores should be checked. I post a simple chart on the easel near the Smartboard for our first lesson:
Lunch Box or Lunch Choice
This is our first chance to move with a purpose on Day 1, and I make sure everyone knows what they need to do for the locker/Community Board activity. I dismiss kids to get their materials, find their lockers, and store their backpacks by handing out numbered sticky notes with assigned locker numbers. These sticky notes go in backpack pockets for future reference. I hover by the door with clipboard and sticky notes in hand, calling kids and matching them to numbers and watching how they self-manage these unpacking tasks. Can they locate their locker and then move back into the room to read the board and make choices? Who looks bewildered? Who moves with confidence? Which kids help others without prompting? Who read the board, found a pencil from the supply bin at each table, and then placed a pencil at his/her current seat without prompting after reading the day’s list of chores?
Once everyone has taken care of lockers and lunch, we work through the Community Board together and I explain the purpose of each component on the display. I explain how the posted information will help learners. I discuss the expectations for students reading the board each morning. I want them to know how this board will help them launch their days with confidence. I remind them that even if this seems like a new or overwhelming procedure, it is a helpful routine that will have powerful benefits throughout the year.
During morning arrival that first week of school, I greet students at the door and remind them to visit the Community Board to prepare for the day. I am persistent from the doorway, calling out reminders like a broken record and verbally checking in with each child before meeting.
- Did you read our morning message?
- Did you select your lunch option?
- Did you complete your morning chores?
The familiar chart from the first day continues to be visible for all students:
Lunch Box or Lunch Choice
As the first week unfolds, I identify my early-arrival candidates who can be my “helpers” during the first month of school. You need those leaders who can get themselves ready and then have enough time to visit while reminding their peers to visit the Community Board. Capitalize on your organized students from the start and celebrate their independence while recognizing their leadership skills.
Eventually, the need for morning reminders will decrease as students adopt your morning arrival routines. Be persistent that first month and expect all kids to participate. Late arrivers can see the board’s information from outside the community area; they can see the day’s schedule and prepare materials while listening to your morning meeting. If you find arrival time tricky for some children, partners may need to be assigned to students lacking independence. In the end, this diligent support pays off, and soon students will use the Community Board to launch their day with important information that prepares them for learning.
The Community Board requires quick, daily updates to the calendar, the daily schedule, and the morning message. Upcoming events, and papers with deadlines such as book orders can be displayed until due dates. I check the morning chores list and revise it as needed. Will students need laptops tomorrow? After logging in, what site or document will we use? Should students select books for our nonfiction reading routine called Explore? My time before students arrive always seems filled with meetings, visiting with colleagues, or collecting books for readers, so I update my calendar and morning message before I leave school each afternoon. Find a rhythm that works for you and allows you to maximize the information shared on the Community Board. When I created a community information display, I knew I would need to be intentional and committed to using it each day if I wanted my students to use our Community Board as a planner and a source of information. Just as I check my email and calendar each morning, I help students adopt this same routine with the Community Board.
Ways to Maximize the Displays
Keep it simple. My Community Board is a simple display that reminds me of those oversized desk calendars and planners office-supply stores give away during back-to-school sales. My display is on a magnetic whiteboard, so I use Washi Tape to mark off the different sections of the board. I print and laminate title cards for the display and secure them with magnetic tape to allow for flexibility and easy cleaning. I write my morning message with dry erase markers, so I keep a colorful marker collection attached to the board in a holder meant for decorating a locker. I also keep a special eraser on hand so I can quickly update the board each day. Add your style and flair to the design, but remember to keep the maintenance as simple and easy as possible.
Use it daily with students. If you want students to learn how to read informational lists and charts, start and maintain the habit of using the Community Board with your class. Expect them to read and complete the list of morning chores. When they want to know what’s for lunch, what time gym is, and when the yearbook order is due, refer them to the Community Board. As students use this board, it becomes a helpful tool and in turn helps them grow independent.
When kids realize that they must actively use this daily informational text to take charge of their day, they will have a reason to use the Community Board. Learning to read and use informational texts such as calendars and to-do lists will be a life skill offering assistance far beyond your classroom walls.