Talk About a Community: How Does an Elementary School Teacher Support Classroom Community Through Dialogue?

Sangita Satpathy-Lem, Third Grade
P.S. 29, Brooklyn, NY

Sangita Sadapthy-Lem

This website was developed by the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, and can be accessed at the following URL:


(this link was valid on 8/25/06)

This website documents the challenges, complexities and successes of an elementary school teacher’s experiences in supporting a classroom community through the use of dialogue. It centers on the third-grade classroom of Sangita Satpathy-Lem, at PS 29 in Brooklyn, New York. The documentation focuses on three methods, grand conversations, small group work, and teacher-student conferences, in which Sangita uses dialogue to help support the development of a community in her classroom. It also provides a glimpse into three other aspects of Sangita's practice that she sees as central to the development of community: community supports, classroom procedures, and reflection.

Using the process of promoting community through dialogue, Sangita builds on the idea that children must have the space to make choices in her classroom. They need to talk, share and learn from one another. For Sangita, giving students the power to choose is non-negotiable; it is also the foundation of her beliefs about building community.

By using these methods, Sangita has successfully built a community in her classroom that has the freedom to discuss social issues, classroom goals and grade level content. This “talk” assists Sangita in supporting an environment that fosters community and academic success.