Building Relationships with Students #GSPD

Building classroom community has always been a very important part of what I do in my classroom. Using our morning meetings, “good news, bad news,” playing different games, creating our Room 108 podcast… these are all important elements in our routines. Since all of the students at our school our homeless, we always have high levels of transition and mobility among our families. This year in particular, however, it seems we have had a higher turnover rate. This has made it even more challenging to build classroom community.

A few weeks ago, however, we had a breakthrough. For the second year in a row we participated in “Global School Play Day” (@GSPlayDay.) Scott Bedley (@scottbedley) is the California teacher who first alerted me to Global School Play Day a couple of years ago in a Twitter chat. Global School Play Day is an entire day at school dedicated to unstructured play. This is so important for all students, but particularly mine who may not have any toys of their own. Simple toys that other children may take for granted, like Legos or cars or dolls, are not things most of my students have when they leave our classroom at the end of the day.

During’s this year’s Global School Play Day, I was so happy to see my students connecting with others who they do not normally play or even socialize with. Multiple students created their own imaginary store using play-dough creations and play money, and other students came to shop or help contribute new items. The students recognized the need for store security, so someone appointed themselves as the security officer.

The beauty of Global School Play Day is that teachers step away from directing activities, and students come up with things they want to play and do. Our classroom was filled with LOTS of imaginative play. By the end of the day, some students settled down to play board games like checkers, card games, Connect Four, etc. Interestingly, most of these games were played in pairs, although some played Uno in a group of four.

At the end of the day, we reflected in a class radio show about what we noticed about each other during Global School Play Day and the ways we interacted. Students recognized what a relaxed day it was, and how much they enjoyed structuring their own games and activities. For students who often don’t have much of a say in their own environment, and definitely don’t have regular routines outside of school, this provided chances to make meaningful choices. It also gave them the opportunity to be free of many stresses which are regularly part of their lives.

 

Read more about Global School Play Day in Scott Bedley’s February 3rd post, “Play Needs a Rebrand… #GSPD.” I am so thankful our school participates together in this awesome day of unstructured play. This day was a turning point in our classroom this year: Trust was built, relationships were strengthened, students opened up more about what is going on in their lives, and new friendships were started. I encourage you to bring Global School Play Day to your classroom next year!

39 thoughts on “Building Relationships with Students #GSPD”

  1. You are an inspiration to teachers and students everywhere. The way you engage with your students in and outside of the classroom is something educators should strive for. Thank you for passing along your valuable knowledge. Keep up the good work!

  2. You are a truly phenomenal human being. You are an absolute inspiration to all. I can see see your passion because it is evident in all you do. I love that you see that all children are immensely valuable and have great potential. I love that see these children creating a great future and that you want to give children a voice. I love that you help children of all backgrounds and you see their capabilities and you challenge them to new heights. I love that you have a passion for challenging children to grow into productive influential young adults. Your passion for helping others and your creative views about children and education are very admirable. I hope to broaden my Worldview and be as open-minded and passionate as you. You are a role model for all.

  3. Creating a community within the classroom is emphasized everywhere. However, it often seems that a teacher an just be nice to the students and have open conversation with them. However, you have shined a light on creating a real community within the classroom. The students don’t just have a relationship with you, but also with each and every other student even if they don’t regularly talk to them. I think the idea of Global School Play Day is an amazing concept. It not only encourages community, but communication skills and creativity. Especially in a school that caters to homeless children, I think this is an amazing thing. I also think you are an amazing teacher. It takes a special kind of person to love seeing growth in yourself, and others, and using that power to create change even beyond what you can see. You are impacting so many teachers that you will never get a thank you for or even recognize. So, from myself, thank you for inspiring classrooms everywhere (and my future theatre classroom!)
    #ded318

  4. Wow. Classroom community is something I hold very dear. It is something that I want to establish in my classroom when I move into teaching. Reading just a few of your ideas gave me so many ideas of my own. And the podcasts are amazing! You are inspiration. Your passion and dedication comes through in everything you talk about. Classroom 108 sounds like a classroom that is filled with wonder, learning and excitement. What I believe are key for children. I love the idea of GSPD and find it amazing that your school and class participate. What an unique way to learn. How you approach teaching and the students is something that I will always strive for. Thank you for being such a great role model to those kiddos, and to teachers and future teachers.

  5. Hi Shelly, quick question for you! I am a student at K-State taking Ed Tech right now. An unstructured day like this sounds awesome and so beneficial for the kids. However, how did you handle discipline during a day where the kids are free to play whatever they want? Did you have more or less issues with handling behavior? Thanks! You are really inspiring and I am so grateful for teachers like you.

  6. WOW! You are an inspiration! I love how you engage with you students inside the classroom and out. I think building community classroom is a very important thing to have in your class and that is something I want to have established in my classroom! Your passion for helping students is impeccable. I strive to be like that! You are a great role model to your students and other teachers and I envy you! Thanks!

  7. This day sounds magical. You make me wish I could be in room 108. The way you go the extra mile to care about your students is truly inspirational. It’s one thing to care about the wellbeing of your students, but you have created a safe atmosphere where learners can grow. I’m always curious to how great teachers set up their classroom climate. Thank you so much for sharing the way you have done this with us!

  8. Creating a community within the classroom is emphasized everywhere. However, it often seems that a teacher an just be nice to the students and have open conversation with them. However, you have shined a light on creating a real community within the classroom. The students don’t just have a relationship with you, but also with each and every other student even if they don’t regularly talk to them. I think the idea of Global School Play Day is an amazing concept. It not only encourages community, but communication skills and creativity. Especially in a school that caters to homeless children, I think this is an amazing thing. I also think you are an amazing teacher. It takes a special kind of person to love seeing growth in yourself, and others, and using that power to create change even beyond what you can see. You are impacting so many teachers that you will never get a thank you for or even recognize. So, from myself, thank you for inspiring classrooms everywhere (and my future theatre classroom!)

  9. This is the first I’ve heard of Global School Play Day! It sounds and looks AMAZING. I’m thrilled to see that it was a success and your students loved it. How exciting to see their personalities and imagination shine through. Definitely something to think about trying out at every school… play is so important in the developmental process. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Shelly you and your husband are inspirations!

    I think this is something that I would use in my classroom because although gaining knowledge in the classroom is the reason we teach and learn, it is nice for students to bond through relaxation and some old school fun. I love this idea. You say that this day is especially important for your students because they are homeless, and this really resonated with me. I plan on teaching high school U.S. history in an inner- city / low-income school district and I am trying to prepare myself to encounter this same kind of environment. I think that you are doing wonders for these kids. Great work.

  11. Creating a community within the classroom is emphasized everywhere. However, it often seems that a teacher an just be nice to the students and have open conversation with them. However, you have shined a light on creating a real community within the classroom. The students don’t just have a relationship with you, but also with each and every other student even if they don’t regularly talk to them. I think the idea of Global School Play Day is an amazing concept. It not only encourages community, but communication skills and creativity. Especially in a school that caters to homeless children, I think this is an amazing thing. I also think you are an amazing teacher. It takes a special kind of person to love seeing growth in yourself, and others, and using that power to create change even beyond what you can see. You are impacting so many teachers that you will never get a thank you for or even recognize. So, from myself, thank you for inspiring classrooms everywhere (and my future theatre classroom!)

  12. This post is incredibly moving! So far in my education I have felt like community was something that was reserved for upper level schooling (personally, I hadn’t truly experience community until this year, my second year in college). This helped me open my eyes to what community may look like in an elementary setting! The idea of #GSPD is incredible. I especially loved the example tweets about the kids’ activities and how creative they were. Seeing play from this kind of perspective was truly inspiring! Thanks for sharing you and others’ experiences with #GSPD, it was really great getting to learn about this!

  13. This is amazing! The work you do for these students is truly incredible, I hope that I can one day be a teacher like you. The classroom environment that you create for your students seems so welcoming, even though their living situations are not always positive, students always get to have a positive experience at school. The global school play day seems like a great way for students to meet new people and get out of their comfort zones. I love that you reflect with the students about the global play day when it is complete. This is such an amazing blog!

  14. I am blown away with your commitment and dedication to Positive Tomorrow’s. For starters, building a community in the classroom is such a great ground to build from. I hope that I am able to establish that in my own future classroom. One thing that I really enjoyed reading about was the Global School Play Day. I think that having a unstructured play day is wonderful for student learning. A child’s job is to play and dedicating a whole day to that is awesome! Also, since some of the children might not have a lot of toys of their own, that gives them an opportunity to explore and play with toys they might not ever have. Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and thank you for being a fabulous teacher and someone I now can look up to for ideas!

  15. Hey Shelly.
    I completely agree with you on that building a strong community in the classroom is essential. I love the Global School Play Day and I wish my school did that when I was in grade school. I definitely would’ve been that student that said “This is the best day ever!” This is a perfect way to build that community in the classroom. As you stated above, the students interact and play with classmates they don’t normally interact with. That’s an amazing result. A good teacher wants their students to be comfortable with one another and this is the perfect opportunity to encourage that. I can’t even imagine what is like for those kids who don’t have toys at home to play with. They don’t get the tremendous benefits of imaginary play. You are making a huge difference in the lives of these kids. In the future when they look back on their lives and are asked “is there a moment that made you want to continue your education and you wanted to be successful? What made you enjoy school?” Those kids will remember that day and they will think of you and the effort you put in. Keep it up! You’re a real hero!

  16. I hope that the Global School Play Day continues to spread across America! This is an excellent way for students to interact and build relationships with each other. What a better way to build classroom community than allowing students to work and play freely? This is awesome!

  17. I really enjoyed this article! When I first decided to read this article, I figured maybe it just included tips and tricks to building relationships; this article was much more than that! I loved that on Global School Play Day, you were able to foster stronger bonds with your students, but also that they were able to form deep connections with each other. I’d never heard of Global School Play Day before reading this, and I definitely loved the premise and thought that you included about the day in your writing. It really resonated with me when you wrote that this day was the most choice that your students may have had in a long time, and how the day provided them with an opportunity to learn a little more about how to make meaningful choices. If a day like this could become an even bigger event across our country, think about how many student lives we could impact!

    I am to teach in a secondary classroom after I graduate, and I think it would be interesting to adapt a day like this to their age group. What if the day could be full of sports they loved, or hobbies like reading or creating crafts? I just have ideas flowing after reading some of your articles. 🙂 Overall, I thought this was a great post, and I can’t wait to make an impact on my future students, hopefully as much of an impact as you’ve made on your students!

  18. They weren’t wrong when they said that it takes a village. That’s what community is all about. Vygotsky and Piaget both had good theories on the importance that play holds in our development into the people we are going to be. I can only imagine how moving it was to see these children forming their own little communities, seeing needs and filling them. Play can also be a form of escape for these children who may not have a happy home life, whether it be the case that many of your students face, or other students who, in general, just feel empty and lonely at home. School, play, and those communities that students form can be a way of an escape. A way to get a way from it all.
    It can also be a good way to exercise their imagination, so many people lose that when they grow up and get a boring job to pay the bills. Imagination is such a key thing even in the world of adults, and without it, we just carry on living our boring lives, but allowing children to harness this, gives them a chance to see just what they are personally capable of. Exploring the bounds of their imagination can help them harness that creativity and that will keep them from becoming more boring adults. We need more spark and imagination in the world, and I think encouraging it in the school setting is such a wonderful idea.
    This was my favorite blog of yours out of all of the different options to chose from, I am very passionate about play, and dreaming. It reminds me of the movie Uncle Buck, when he is called into the principal’s office to discuss his niece. She is described as a dreamer and a sillyheart. Uncle Buck responds by saying that he doesn’t know what kid isn’t a dreamer and a sillyheart. And that he encourages such a thing, before they are dragged down and convinced that they are no good. So I am always very pro-dreamer, and pro-player! Thank you for sharing this experience you had!

  19. I had never heard of Global School Play Day until reading your blog, and I have to say I’m hooked by it! It’s so important to give kids autonomy through something was engaging and fun as unstructured play. This could help so many students, especially those who don’t feel they have much control over much else in their lives. It’s amazing just how much growth happened in a day that some people may brush off as a ‘free day’. This is a great strategy for building a stronger learning community and it seems to have worked exceedingly well! Keep doing what you do!

  20. I love that you integrate so much student-led work into your classroom! I particularly like the podcasts and the radio station you have created for your classroom. If I was a student, having a radio and podcast to work on would have been one of my favorite projects. What a great real-world activity for students to participate in! I can tell that you and your fellow teachers hold great value in letting students make self-discoveries and work on their relationship skills with other students. Giving students time to learn how to work together in unstructured play is so important for their development. I’m happy to hear that your students participate in the Global School Play Day! I had never heard of that day before reading your blog but am very excited to hear that it is something students throughout the world are able to participate in. Thank you for your inspiring work!

  21. Hi Shelly.

    Your commitment to your students and the obvious love that you have for these kids is truly incredible. Dealing with children from a variety of backgrounds, most of which do not seem ideal, would make your job very challenging. Those students truly need time to play and grow relationships with teachers and other students their age. Without these relationships, trust and learning could not take place. I truly hope that Global Play Day has a chance to grow and spread through you and your blog. Students need time to be kids and interact with others in a stress-free environment. I think all schools, no matter the diversity level, should participate in unstructured play across the United States. Not only does this allow these students to build relationships, but it also teaches them how to react to an unstructured situation which is a great life-skill to practice. Thanks for all your commitment to your kids!

  22. After reading many of your articles and your about me page, I must say you are an amazing teacher, and someone that I truly look up to. This article is by far my favorite because Building relationships with students is something very close to my heart. Having a great community and relationship with students is one of the reasons I became a teacher. I was fortunate enough to have teachers in school that took the time to really get to know me and always new how to help me when I was down. That is something I really hope to bring to my future classroom. If I didn’t have teachers that too the time to impact my life like they did, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I thank you and all the teachers who stress the importance of relationship building in the classroom.

  23. This is the first time that I have heard of Global School Play Day, what an awesome way to let students’ creativity and personalities shine! I hope this is something I will begin to see in the schools around me. I feel as though we forget how important play is for a child’s development and we need to implement more days and activities like this into our regular school year schedules. Can’t wait to see more! Thanks for sharing!

  24. This shows the remarkable power behind unstructured play. When students who aren’t used to deciding what their school days consist of the arrival of choices can be empowering for a student. I believe it encourages their willingness to learn as they are directly put in charge of their own education.

  25. Global school Play Day is an amazing program that you participate in. Being able to create a classroom community is especially important to assure the success of the students. Its amazing to see that you are willing to dedicate a day to play. By dedicating a day to play you are able to assure that you are creating this classroom community. I think more teachers should take a day of play. It establishes connections and creativity among students and benefits them for the rest of the school year.

  26. What a great idea to build relationships in the classroom. Thank you for sharing the success of Global School Play Day. I would really like to see this idea spread to more classrooms. Again thank you and keep up all the awesome work!

  27. Shelly,
    It’s always a beautiful thing to see how students blossom when they know they are supported by their peers. Instead of seeing reserved individuals who rarely socialize, we see social interactions and relationships building throughout the classroom. I had never heard of Global School Play Day until now. After reading your blog, I hope that it will catch on in schools across the nation. A day of playing may seem simple or even counterproductive to some, but I’d argue that a day of building community is more beneficial than a day of class. I would love to see the comparison between your class before and after GS Play Day. Thank you so much for sharing! We need more teachers like you in our schools!

  28. This global school play day is amazing! That is such an amazing thing for all students, and I hope it spreads all over the United States! You are such an inspiration to all teachers, new and old. This entire blog gets people so excited about teaching! I love it!

  29. Ma’am, just like you I believe in communities. I believe that communities build relationships and trust with-in a class. The GSPD, is a wonderful concept to getting kids out of their comfort zone to interact with others. Their interactions not only build social skills and trust but also bring fresh ideas shared from student to student. For one day, the kids can just worry about being a kid and not the stress of life learning. Technology in the class is most appreciated when the kids can create. There are plenty of application that the kids could to keep them engaged and learning something meaning while using technology.

  30. I love initiatives like GSPD that emphasize the importance of physical/social learning (rather than only academic learning). Even though I enjoyed the academic side of school, many of the most important lessons I learned as a child were learned at recess or while goofing around with my friends. It’s sad that so many schools are de-emphasizing recess when there’s such an overwhelming body of literature that recognizes the importance of play.

  31. This is so awesome! Play is such an integral part of learning and child development, it’s hugely important that we emphasize it in classrooms. In our Intro to Human Development course here at K-State, we have an assignment to go out and spend an hour doing some sort of unstructured play just for the sake of fun, so this is really something that’s applicable for students and teachers alike! It’s a great way to build community in the classroom and teach students that while school is important, taking care of themselves through self-care and play is equally as important.

  32. I was really inspired by this article. It is a very simple thing, yet is neglected far too often. I never knew Global School Play Day was a thing. After reading this article, and experiencing a Maker Space STEM class this summer, I know that I want to give my students the opportunity to create freely and interact with one another in a fun environment such as this.

  33. This was truly amazing, and I was so excited to see that you believe that building relationships with your students is so important. I loved to see that you really connect with your students every morning to check to see how their day went or how their week is. I want to follow this idea and use it in my classroom because you never know what that student/students might have gone through before coming to your class, and showing as a teacher you care will mean so much to them. Thank you for everything that you do, you’re truly inspiring.

  34. Community is HUGE in a classroom setting! I’ve only recently developed an appreciation/knowledge about community in the classroom, because I’ve been learning about it in my education classes. I can think back to very few instances where I felt a sense of community before college, so I think it is AWESOME that you are emphasizing it through a day of play. As for the #GSPD, I think it is awesome that it is almost completely up to the students’ imagination. I had field day when I was in elementary school, but it was all outside and incredibly competition based–an opportunity like #GSPD would have been outstanding when I was younger.

    I love the ideas you bring up here, Shelly. While #GSPD wouldn’t quite work in a secondary classroom (the level I want to teach at), I can definitely take some of the core values and ideas and find ways to implement them in my future band classes!

  35. As a future band director, community is something I hold very dear. Without a sense of community, there’s not a whole lot of music that’s going to mean something. The Global School Play Day is an idea that after reading this article and digging into the homepage is so essential to kids. I could find so many different activities in music by using these standards for unstructured play. I loved reading this post and was so excited to read the rest of your blog! Thanks for sharing!

  36. This article is great! I’m really inspired by a day of just playing; since play is children’s work, they need to be able to do just that! I had a question about the day. Do you have any behavioral or discipline issues that need to be addressed? With so much freedom in one day, I’m wondering if the kids either perform very well since they know they get the free time, or if some are too unrestricted with the rules and need a couple reminders about how to be kind to others. Thanks!

  37. This is incredibly inspiring! I haven’t really been able to define community in an educational context until recently. I love the idea of creating community through play. I am currently studying to become a music educator, and community is HUGE in the music room. It’s important to me because I want my students to be comfortable with each other to the point that we can hand ourselves to the music. The ideas brought up through Global School Play Day can be easily transferred to a high school band, and hopefully create the same results. Thanks for sharing this, Shelly!

  38. This is incredibly inspiring! The ideas of Global School Play Day can be easily transferred to a high school band class (I am majoring in Music Education). Community is a huge aspect of creating music, and I want my students to be comfortable enough in the band room so that we can make true music, rather than just going through the motions. Applying some of the basic aspects of #GSPD in my classroom, I feel, can help me create that community or “family” aspect that every music class needs.

  39. Hi Shelley! I LOVE the work that you are doing for these students it is truly amazing all the things you do. The love the idea of he global school play day, and that it gives these students a chance to interact with different kiddos. This school sounds like such an amazing place learn and I love that you give everyone a chance to see inside with the multiple videos and blogs! You’re amazing!

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