“No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” ~ James Comer
As early childhood educators we know the importance of embedding rituals and routines into our classroom culture. We understand that they enable children to feel safe and secure while building connections with their peers and adults.
We also understand the importance of being flexible and following a child’s lead. When we follow a child’s lead we often stumble upon routines and rituals we didn't anticipate. These co-created rituals and routines build the strongest classroom bonds.
A few years ago my family and I moved from Maryland to North Carolina. When I took a teaching position in our new hometown I knew that I would need to be mindful of building respectful routines and rituals. Building connections with the children and families was my number one priority.
There were a few rituals that were a part of my previous classroom culture that I wanted to carry over to my new home away from home. One of these rituals was celebrating each child’s birthday with a birthday circle. I knew this was a way that I could honor each individual child.
The week leading up to each child’s special birthday celebration a group of children would create a one of a kind birthday gift. On the big day the birthday child would have their favorite book read aloud to the class by their parents/caregivers. They also shared their adorable baby pictures and funny stories. The celebration ended with an often overly loud rendition of the Happy Birthday song and the giving of the handmade birthday gift.
One of the other special “gifts” the child was given on their celebration day was the ability to be first. First in line. First to the lunch table. First on the swings. If you know anything about preschoolers and kindergarteners being first is a huge deal.
The birthday child would get a crown and be sworn in as King or Queen for the day. I never thought too much about the titles chosen. That was until one of my students shared that they didn’t feel like they wanted to be either of those choices. They felt like they would like to be a royal dragon for the day.
This was an eye-opening event in my teaching career. If I really wanted to develop a classroom where everyone felt like they had a voice I needed to be more flexible in my thinking. In this moment we co-created the ritual of being royalty for the day.
This might not seem like a big deal. All I did was change the title but for this child it was a huge deal. I changed the title in order for every child to feel included. If we want to create authentic connections we need to honor each child’s voice.
One of my favorite daily routines started in a very simple way. I found an interesting news article that I thought the children would really enjoy. I shared it with them during our afternoon meeting time. They loved the article so much that they shared all the details with their families at the end of the day.
The following afternoon the children asked what news I was going to share with them. I hadn’t planned on sharing another article so I quickly scrambled to find something to share. As a classroom community we co-created the daily routine of afternoon news.
The sharing of afternoon news was more than a way to add “academic” learning to our day. It was a way for us to come together and share in the wonders of the world. We shared laughter, awe, and sometimes tears.
I will be forever grateful for the bonds that developed in our classroom community because of our co-created rituals and routines. What are some of your favorite classroom rituals and routines?
Want to add afternoon news to your day? Check out DOGO News
Looking for new ways to celebrate each childs’ birthday? Check out Going Beyond Cupcakes