As teachers, our job is so much more than simply teaching students information. In fact, I would argue that “information” is often the least important aspect of what we are teaching. We are teaching students to learn how to learn. We are teaching students how to be good people, good classmates, good friends, and respectable citizens.
Establishing a positive classroom culture is, hands down, the most important part of what we do on a daily basis. We want our students to know that when we are together in our classroom, we are all equals. We want them to know that they are safe, cared for, and respected by other classmates. When students feel safe, loved, and respected, they can learn at optimal levels.
Here are five ways that you can establish a positive classroom culture in your classroom:
1. Set expectations. Expectations are crucial. Your students must know what you expect and that there are not options when it comes to treating others with kindness and respectfulness. I like to put signs on my door as well as signs in the classroom to outline that we are a kind, positive community of people, and that we expect that from everyone. Here is an example of a classroom expectations display. (Get it for your classroom HERE.)
2. Encourage compliments. Encourage your students to compliment another student when they see them doing a good job. Be sure that your students hear you complimenting others on a regular basis. I like to organize my activities to make room for compliments. For example, when students “publish” their Writer’s Workshop stories, they leave a blank page in the back for positive compliments from their friends. When we make PowerPoint presentations, we leave a slide at the back where students can add positive comments for the student who created it.
3. Take notice. When you see a student treating another student respectfully, take notice of it. Say, “I noticed how you helped ________ when she was frustrated. I want you to know how much I appreciate that.” Focus more on the positive, and less on the negative.
4. Talk about the result. Ask students questions about the results of their positive actions. For example, when you notice a student saying something nice to another student, you might say, “I noticed that you gave _______ a really nice compliment. I bet that made her feel so good inside. It might have even been the highlight of her day.” Let your students know that they have the ability to make someone else feel really good, and potentially even affect their entire day.
5. Establish a way to connect with every student early in the day. It is important that a teacher reaches every student every single day, preferably as early in the morning as possible. This makes every student feel safe, cared for, and important. Try a morning meeting where you can connect with each student first thing in the morning. Make a point of greeting each student as they enter the classroom, and asking how they are.
Lastly, I have a few free printables for you that will help you reinforce positive community in your classroom. They can be downloaded for free from my teacher membership site, Fun Classroom Printables, by clicking HERE or on the image below.
How do you establish and maintain a positive classroom culture? I would love to hear in the comments below!