While physical safety is a top concern in schools, psychological safety also plays a key role in student engagement and motivation. Your classroom culture is pivotal in creating an environment where students feel safe to learn. This post provides tips on how to build classroom culture to maximize students’ learning potential.
What is Classroom Culture?
Because there are different perceptions of what classroom culture is, defining it helps set the stage. An article in Frontiers in Psychology describes classroom culture as “the shared values, rules, traditions, belief patterns, behaviors, and relationships in a class.” With the entire class sharing these characteristics, the classroom becomes more inclusive, and you build a classroom culture in which all students feel valued.
Positive Classroom Culture Strategies
Set rules. No matter which grade you are teaching, establish a few rules. Explain that the rules ensure their safety and save time for more fun activities. Phrase your rules positively, such as “we are safe, we try our best, and we respect others.” Doing so sets a tone for positive classroom culture. The rules should be non-negotiable and apply to everyone. By enforcing them consistently, you establish trust and a level playing field.
Create shared values. As a class, come up with beliefs that all agree are most important. Discovering mutually shared values removes the feeling of being forced into someone else’s beliefs while still ensuring class members can hold each other accountable. While these values are not rules, they should guide students on what to do when there’s a dilemma, whether or not the teacher is present. Along with each value, create an explanatory description. Post your shared values prominently for easy reference. When students face a tough situation, ask them to base their solution on the classroom’s shared values.
Establish trust. Some students feel embarrassed or insecure participating in class. By creating a space where students can participate comfortably, you build trust with them. A few ways to build trust are:
- Banning teasing and other forms of interruption.
- Acknowledging students for putting forth an effort to participate instead of praising a right or pitying a wrong answer.
- Modeling “wrong” answers. Purposely mistake a fact, acknowledge it and correct yourself to show students that it’s safe to make mistakes and try again.
- Offering other ways to participate, such as Google forms or other real-time surveys.
Set a routine. Familiarity breeds comfort. When students know what to expect, they are more relaxed, ready, and able to learn. Some examples of classroom routines include:
- Greeting students at the door daily.
- Checking in on students’ wellbeing.
- Having a mini-celebration at the end of a learning unit.
- Saying a pledge or chant to kick off the day.
Create a sense of community. Promoting collaboration, group activities, and hands-on learning allows students to develop a sense of community. Some strategies to build community in the classroom include:
- Creating a class Instagram, website, or newsletter to track milestones and achievements.
- Dedicating class time to group conversations on topics that help them get to know each other better.
- Creating a classroom cause. Students research community organizations, nonprofits, and charities and decide on a common cause to help.
Customize the classroom. A unique and energized space will make students more relaxed and apt to participate. If your students like a given television program, video game, or story, decorate the classroom with that theme to create an engaging space that students look forward to seeing.
Use games to foster teamwork. Games can bring out students’ best traits and create a sense of belonging among teammates. When preparing for a test, split students into teams and encourage them to work together to meet the challenges.
Building a positive classroom culture involves building teacher-student relationships as well as student-student relationships. For more strategies created by teachers that can help you create a positive classroom environment, try Avanti for free.