Creating Community in First Grade

During the initial weeks of first grade, Cassia Laffin and her students are learning about each other and creating community in their classroom.  Laffin said it is important for each child to know they can make mistakes and that they are embraced for who they are.

“I read them a series of promises that I make to them, such as ‘You will be respected,’ ‘I believe in you,’ ‘I care about you,’ and ‘You will be listened to.’ Each statement is written on brightly colored paper owls that adorn the walls in our classroom.”

Students made their own list of rules and illustrated them in groups. Each student also made their own colorful “mini-me” doll, a self-reflection of who they are. Each student also made their own colorful “mini-me” doll, a self-reflection of who they are. Students chose a skin color and materials for dressing their doll including paper, crayons, wallpaper and fabric. They decided what type of clothing their doll will wear, and then, most challenging of all, they problem solve how to make their vision a reality.

“I gave them some ideas of how to approach it, but allow them to figure as much out on their own as possible,” shared Laffin. “By watching this process unfold, I gain great insight into who they are. I learn about their temperament, creativity, and even a quick feel for those who are eager to help others. This offers a glimpse into students’ ability to work independently, and can see who may require more assistance.

Students were encouraged to add an item of personal interest to their doll. One student made their doll holding a fishing pole, while another chose to have their doll holding a family heirloom sword.

“Children need to feel safe before they can begin learning,” said Laffin. “Our value of the month is kindness and being a good friend to one another. We talk a lot about the Golden Rule. We emphasize doing one’s personal best, and being positive.”

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Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of Marketing & Communications          [email protected]

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 mountaintop acres, Mount Madonna is a safe and nurturing college-preparatory school that supports students in becoming caring, self-aware and articulate critical thinkers, who are prepared to meet challenges with perseverance, creativity and integrity. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.