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How 703 Became “The Intelligent Bosses,” “Undecided,” “Team Legit,” and “The All-Stars”

Introduction

 
My school fosters class pride to build a positive school community. Every day, each teacher votes for the best class, and on the first Friday of the month the school gathers for an assembly that culminates in announcing the best class per grade.  A few students dramatically run around the auditorium onto the stage to claim the Best Class trophy as their classmates cheer.  
 
I wondered how I could create such excitement within my classes to encourage students to become more engaged with each other and the curriculum. This inquiry project is about transforming my class from one community (703) into four smaller communities (that the students named the Intelligent Bosses, Undecided, Team Legit, and the All-Stars) to increase both group collaboration and individual participation in my classroom. Ultimately, the class community as a whole became stronger because the students each now had their own role based on their strengths to contribute, and they became proud when their small learning community (SLC) received praise.  
 
I decided to create these smaller communities within my classroom because I feel like there is a paradox in English classrooms; there is now a huge emphasis on individual achievement through essays and state test results, but schools also want students to collaborate and expect teachers to make informed decisions about groupings.
 
Data for measuring individual and school growth is important, but I also think that the reason I was always more drawn to the humanities is that there is a lot that is not measurable. If people are truly thinking outside the box, then they are not meeting or even exceeding standards, they are making their own. I want my students to learn how to have genuine conversations with others about topics that matter to them, and not just about topics that someone tells them are important and that lead to assignments. SLCs are a starting point for my students to learn how to converse, debate, and think critically with others.