One method of strengthening a sense of community and belonging is to establish common goals and norms for the classroom. Collective goals create a common purpose and motivating principles for classroom activities. Norms help facilitate productive collaboration by ensuring students know how to understand and learn from each other in a safe and productive manner.
In order to truly foster a student-centered environment that yields feelings of belonging, however, students must be involved in the process of generating these goals and norms. Doing so means that students take ownership over the goals and norms and the resulting activities that incorporate them.
This resource describes the process of guiding students through the creation of a classroom contract. You can also apply many of the same principles to working collectively to generate goals for the year or to establish norms prior to a small group discussion or activity.