Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How to Create a Positive Classroom Culture

Creating a positive classroom culture is the first thing every classroom teacher should do the first week of school. But it shouldn't stop there. You should continue to work on class culture the entire school year. We are hear to offer some tips, advice, and activities for you to use in your classroom to build on what you started the first month of school.

Interest Inventory
If you have not yet given an interest inventory to get to know your students you should. We have a simple one that we have created that you can download here for free. It contains thirteen questions that will help you to know your students better. You may be surprised at some of the answers! Use the surveys throughout the year by incorporating students' interests. Your students will be excited to see that you are interested in what they like.
FREE Back to School Interest Inventory for Grades 3-5

Cooperative Challenges
Another way to build a positive classroom culture is through cooperative activities. One of our students' favorites is the Marshmallow Tower Trial. In this activity, students are given a box of toothpicks, 5 large marshmallows and a few handfuls of small marshmallows. Their task is to cooperatively build the tallest tower that they can in 10 minutes. They can not use anything except the materials provided. This is a great team-building activity that will show you how your students work together. We did this the first week of school and were pleased with how well the groups worked together. Of course, at the end, we gave them some marshmallows to eat too which probably helped.

We also do a "Save Fred" activity. Students come into the classroom with a situation in their group. Fred the gummy worm is stuck on top of his boat (clear plastic cup) and he has to get his life preserver (lifesaver) from under his boat with only the use of paper clips! Watch students use the scientific method as they try to solve the problem. Click here for a blog post to read more about it.

Whole Group Activity
After the first few weeks of school, the "honeymoon" period may be over and some students may need a reminder on what it means to be kind and respectful to each other. We have created a toothpaste activity that is sure to hit home with your students. Pull out a brand new tube of toothpaste and show your students. Tell them that you have a challenge for them. Tell the students that you want to see if they can squeeze all of the toothpaste out onto a piece of construction paper in one minute. You will have tons of hands shoot up for volunteers. Take one volunteer, set a timer, and let the student squirt it all out. You will have students cheering as the toothpaste exits onto the construction paper. When done, write the time on the board. Then pick two more volunteers, but don't tell them what it's for. When you have two volunteers, hand them each a toothpick. Tell them that their job is to put every last bit of toothpaste back into the tube. Watch as they try and try but find it impossible to do it. This is where the true learning takes place. Discuss with the class how saying something mean or hurtful is like squeezing out toothpaste-easy. But the damage left on the person who was the target will never be complete again. Those unkind words will never be fully replaced. This is a powerful lesson. If you would like step by step directions for this, you can find it here.
Classroom Management Toothpaste Activity

Be Prompt
When issues arise, address the problems right away. We have found that contacting parents that first month of school can make all the difference. If behaviors are ignored, they will just continue to surface and grow throughout the school year. If you want to have a positive classroom culture, you cannot let a few students' behaviors ruin that for the rest of the class. Involving the parents is key to letting those students know that they need to fix their behavior.

Culturally Responsive Teaching 
In order to have a culture of respect, you must value diversity in your classroom. We are not only taking about racial, physical and cultural differences, but learning styles as well. It is crucial that your teaching style incorporates a wide variety of methods to reach all of your learners. We have created 25 culturally responsive teaching activity cards that will engage your students in many different ways. We use these all the time and students respond well to the wide variety of learning methods. You can find them here.

Culturally Responsive Teaching Activity Cards

You are the key to continuing a positive culture in your classroom. Make sure to stop and evaluate your current atmosphere in your classroom and use some of the above tips, advice, or activities to help make it an environment that students can thrive and excel in.

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