Creating a positive classroom culture is fundamental to shaping the minds of learners. Engaged learners are motivated to learn, they feel a sense of belonging to their teacher, peers, and the classroom. This is super important, not just for their social-emotional wellbeing but, also, when a student feels a sense of belonging they are more likely to succeed in learning.
It’s always best to have this environment set up from the first day of the school year, that way learners start to feel ownership and a sense of pride and belonging as soon as they enter their new classroom environment. Below is a list of inspiring ideas to create a positive learning environment for Junior-Middle school classrooms.
1. Prepare the classroom
When learners head back to school you want them to walk into their new classroom environment and feel empowered and welcome right from the beginning of the year. Classroom displays play a vital part and are the first thing that your learners will see when they enter their new classroom. You only get one chance to create that all-important first impression, so think about functionality, layout, and color scheme.
A theme is a great idea for each classroom wall or even your entire classroom e.g. space, nature, animals, pastel colors; display resources in a creative way that looks uniformed, neat, and are easy on the eye. Take your time to set up the classroom properly – you may even want to design a plan to work out where everything will go. You want to create a positive learning environment that is functional and child-centered.
Think about space and where your classroom furniture will go in order to create the best flow. Practice walking around your classroom in all directions to check for walkability. Make sure your classroom facilitates learning and positively influences the classroom environment. Embrace including personal touches such as plants, rugs, or cushions.
Helpful hint: Some teachers like to create distinct areas, e.g. a reading area, quiet space or a large table for group work so your classroom naturally caters to the needs of different learners.
Think about where your learner’s books and materials go in relation to their desks or tables and ensure they’re easily accessible to eliminate delays. Create a sense of belonging in the classroom by displaying artwork from every one of your students right at the start of the school year.
Helpful hint: Always, always make sure you have enough stickers – great to have on hand for marking and reinforcing positive behavior!
2. Classroom Management
It’s important to set rules and have high expectations from the first day, that way you’re setting yourself up for a successful school year and ensuring that your students learning experience and classroom environment is positive.
“Getting buy-in and involving students at the outset encourages them to engage more deeply in their learning.”
Involve students in designing guardrails for the classroom (e.g. a classroom contract); make sure to use positive words and avoid the word “no”. Focus on creating a classroom climate that is positive and is centered around students’ wellbeing!
Some students might naturally dominate classroom discussions, while others sit back and listen. Make sure, as the teacher, you facilitate discussion to increase student engagement so all learners feel empowered and want to share. Incorporate a sharing tool such as a talking hat or schedule circle time if a particular topic is generating a lot of discussion. This way, all learners have the opportunity to share.
You want to create positive relationships between yourself, as the new teacher, and your learners. Listen to what your students say and ask their opinion, e.g. ask your learners to arrange the art cupboard or the books in the library; this helps to build a classroom community and your learners will be more likely to keep the areas tidy!
Helpful hint: When tidying up at the end of the day, incorporate a tidy-up song! Introduce this from day one and get your learners to help choose the song. This motivates them to want to tidy up, helps to build a sense of belonging, and saves time.
3. Rewards in the classroom
Children can be either be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, so it makes sense to use a variety of both tangible and non-tangible rewards in the classroom environment. You could use positive praise and reinforcement to generate a positive culture in the classroom. Or, considering some learners like a visual reminder, start small by drawing a smiley face on the whiteboard and writing students’ names underneath.
For some learners that’s enough, others will want more. Engage with your learners, find out what they like, e.g. if you’re ‘caught’ being good and your name ends up under the smiley face three times you get a prize. What prizes will motivate students? Ask your learners. It could be as simple as 10 minutes of free time, a prize from the prize box, stickers, etc.
Do students need more motivation? Start a sticker chart off for each child, or give out tokens. Once a student earns 10 tokens they collect a prize. Think about whole class rewards too, to generate a positive classroom culture and build student relationships, e.g. a whole class marble jar, this will help students to work together.
Helpful hint: Make sure you have enough of the same prize. All too often, children start a trend and everyone ends up wanting the same prize!
4. Remember to laugh
Don’t forget to laugh with your learners!
Humour “brings a sense of pleasure and appreciation, and creates a common, positive emotional experience that the students share with each other and the teacher!”
Take some time to find out what makes your learners laugh, and have a weekly “Silly Session” where learners can share their favorite jokes or funny stories with the class.
There are so many ways to bring a little positivity into your learning environments, whether that’s in-class or remote. But don’t forget to have fun with it! The more you invite laughter, love, and positivity into your classroom, the more it’ll come.
We’re always thinking up new freebies to help you with everyday classroom management, lesson plans, student engagement, and more!
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