Community Building Series
Developed as a part of the “safe schools” movement, the Community Building Series was designed to help students learn important skills that can turn every classroom into a true learning community. Within a learning community, all students are sincerely interested in one another and actively work to help each other learn. All members feel valued for what they can contribute. They feel safe and protected, and they are able to take risks as learners. They feel connected to one another. As a result, negative interactions and bullying are minimized, and students who need help and support can receive it within the structure of the class. In other words, within a learning community, caring and learning go hand in hand. Such characteristics are vitally important in today’s schools where large numbers of students representing different ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic levels, values, and abilities are enrolled. Are learning community classrooms for real — especially in schools surrounded by poverty and violence? They are when the classrooms are guided by the concepts and strategies outlined in this series. Students learn confidence and competence-building skills associated with participating and working with partners and the concepts of respect, tolerance, and a learning community.
(Vernon, Deshler, & Schumaker, 2000)
One of the guiding principles behind all learning communities is the concept of “respect.” Thus, Talking Together is an instructional program designed for introducing the concepts of learning community and for teaching them to participate respectfully in class discussions. As students proceed through the instruction, they learn concepts associated with and basic strategies for controlling their own behavior during discussions. They learn how to take turns with classmates, how to give someone else a chance to speak and be heard, and how to express respect and kindness toward others. The skills and concepts learned in this program are foundational to all forms of communication and can be used by students throughout their lives. All instruction is contained in six easy-to-follow lessons and can usually be completed within six hours. Cue cards, role-pay situations, and a learning community “contract” are all included.
(Vernon, Deshler, & Schumaker, 2002)
“Organization” is not a concept easily understood or practiced by all students. Students often complain that there is “not enough time to be organized,” and they have only a vague notion of procedures that would help them be more productive and efficient in their daily lives. The Organizing Together program enables students to learns skills to establish order. Time is structured into the class schedule to create an organized learning environment, and students have models and partners to help them learn, apply, and maintain organizational strategies throughout the school year. Specifically, students learn how to organize their notebooks, desks, lockers, and backpacks. They also learn how to use a weekly calendar to record and remember assignments and events. Cue cards, organizational checklists, and student calendars round out the instruction. Initial instruction can usually be completed within five hours.
Taking Notes Together
(Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 2002)
The Taking Notes Together program provides a framework for teachers to use to deliver information when they want students to take notes. The program consists of four lessons. One lesson is a review of the learning community concepts from the Talking Together program. The other three lessons relate to teaching students how to record information quickly and succinctly during lectures, reading assignments, and videotapes. The teacher’s role in presenting the program is two fold. First, the teacher provides instruction in the skills involved in taking notes. Second, the teacher organizes and delivers new information to students in such a way that note taking is facilitated. Initial instruction can usually be completed within six hours.
Following Instructions Together
(Vernon, Schumaker, & Deshler, 2001)
The Following Instructions Together program involves teaching students confidence and competence-building skills associated with following instructions. The program contains four basic lessons. In the first lesson, students review what they have learned in the Talking Together program, including the prerequisite skills of participating and working with partners and the concepts of respect, tolerance, and a learning community. In the next two lessons, students learn to follow simple and complex instructions and work effectively with partners. Specifically, students first learn to verify simple oral instructions with the help of a partner. Then they learn how to follow more complex written and oral directions using the RULES Strategy. In the final lesson, students learn to use the WAIT Strategy to check their written assignments with a partner before turning them in to insure they have followed all the instruction. Initial instruction can usually be completed within four hours.