Class cheers in middle school? Before you write this idea off, think of a college basketball game. For two hours straight you see young adults who think they are cool screaming in unison at the top of their lungs. Consider soldiers enduring brutal conditions as they emphatically chant together to maintain morale unity. Or how about a political rally? Young and old professionals alike intently chanting together in support of their favorite candidates. If these diverse crowds can build such strong community through cheering, why can’t we achieve this through class cheers in middle school?
Cheering is so powerful because it says, “I belong.” This is one of the most basic human desires: to feel a part of something bigger than oneself. And which demographic of human beings has more of a desire to belong than our middle school adolescents? Middle school teachers can leverage this desire in powerful ways by creating a sense of belonging in their classrooms. Class cheers may be the simplest and most powerful way to create this feeling among students. A teacher who develops a sense of belonging among students will have
Here are some guidelines in creating successful class cheers that students will be shouting all year:
Short and Simple Class Cheers
Keep it concise and make it extremely easy for kids to repeat. In my class cheer, I shout, “WHO ARE WE?!” and my students respond, “INTENSITY!” It is so simple that not a single student could forget it. And after a month or two, I can pass on the leadership role of shouting the first part to one of the students. Last year, I overheard some boys from our school’s soccer team shouting this cheer. That’s when you know it’s a success! Class cheers that take students all year to remember never take off.
Use casual language in your cheer as opposed to academic language. Students will be much more comfortable repeating your cheer if it doesn’t make them sound like total nerds. One of my Teach for America mentors years ago made up a cheer that he began by shouting his room number, “TWO-OH-FOUR!” and the students responded, “SO HARDCORE!” Ten years later, I still remember this cheer! There is even more power when words from your cheer are a theme in your class. My Teach for America mentor called his students “hardcore math students” whenever they put especially strong effort into class. I constantly tie “intensity” into different aspects of my math class.
The longevity of the cheer depends on the teacher’s ability to sell it. You should have your students shouting it at least twice per class period when you first roll it out. And you have to be wildly enthusiastic about it. The kids need to see you having fun with it, even when they don’t really seem into it. Remember, your students simply want to belong. At first, they need to check out if everyone else is getting into it before they’ll feel safe to take part. The more passionate you are about leading the cheer, the quicker you will win your students over. Once you get four or five kids shouting the cheer, the rest of the class follows suit pretty quickly.
Class cheers can very quickly become a highlight of your students’ days and even your day. Something special happens when the entire class is passionately shouting a unifying anthem. And once you’ve engrained the first cheer into your class’s identity, challenge your students to come up with the next cheer themselves!
As you begin thinking up your first class cheer, think about cheers you’ve heard at sporting events, consider nursery rhymes or even choruses of popular songs. To give a final example of a cheer, this is the cheer our eighth graders used at an all school pep-rally last year: “We’re grade 8! You know you can’t wait! To be like us! Cuz we’re super great!!”
What is a class cheer you’ve had success with?