Creating a positive learning environment in the classroom starts and ends with you, the teacher.
And it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires practicing particular skills. For most people, consistently being positive is easier said than done. It is a learned skill to be practiced in and outside the classroom – with your friends, spouse, siblings, children, neighbors, grocery clerk – everyone. But once mastered, this positive outlook will go far to create the kind of warm and caring atmosphere that leads to an engaging learning environment for students.
Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like. So how do teachers create a positive learning environment?
Master the positive classroom in 5 steps
To accomplish this goal of creating a positive learning environment for children it is important that teachers master the following classroom management areas:
- The importance of the first day of class
- The need for clear directions and instructions
- Strategies for effective monitoring
- How I-messages can affect student behavior
- The teacher as a role model
Keys to the first day of school
What you do the first day of class sets the tone for the entire year. This will require spending some time in front of the mirror. It will also require being prepared with a lesson plan and a narrative.
First, see yourself as your students will see you as you welcome them on the first day of school. Practice greeting your students by looking into the mirror. Study and adjust your facial and body language to correspond in a natural way with positive and encouraging words.
Do the mirror exercise for five minutes then take a break and repeat for another five minutes. Do this routine at least 10 times. How did you feel upon completing the mirror exercise? Might the rehearsal help you come across to your students as a cheerful, caring and friendly teacher?
Second, formulate a plan to quickly and effectively seat your students as they enter your class on the first day of school. How will you reveal yourself as a good natured calm teacher who is in charge of the class? This is not a word for word script, but just how you intend for it to unfold.
On the first day of school, probably more than on any other day in the school year, your students will come to class well behaved and wanting to learn. Take advantage of this occasion by giving a lesson right off the bat. Choose a lesson that shows off your ability, demonstrates that you are in charge, that the students can succeed and that highlights what you will expect from the students every day throughout the year.
Teachers wear many hats, but one of the most important is that of classroom manager. A positive learning environment cannot take place unless clear rules and directions are followed.
Effective teaching and learning cannot take place in a poorly managed classroom. Research over the past 30 years indicates that classroom management is one of the critical ingredients of effective teaching. And there are strategies that can be employed to keep a positive classroom environment while minimizing distractions.
Understanding when to use discipline, and to what degree, is critical. Experts say any program or plan must focus on fair and clear classroom rules and consequences that students participate in planning. Above all, participation gives them a sense of ownership, teachers say. Ownership, in turn, leads to a more positive classroom.
Strategies for effective monitoring
Effective classroom monitoring can also have a huge impact on fostering a positive atmosphere. Effective monitoring means looking and listening for student learning in real-time. When monitoring happens simultaneously with the instructional strategy, the teacher and student can be aware immediately if learning is occurring. The teacher and student can adapt right away to better meet the student’s needs.
There’s no waiting until a student fails a test. The support or correction happens while you’re teaching and while your students are learning. Teachers need to monitor each individual student. Asking a question to the class as a whole, and having one student answer, won’t tell you how the strategy is working with all students. The good news is, effective monitoring will actually save you time.
I-messages for a more positive classroom
Teachers cannot, at any time, afford to lose their self-composure and they are most vulnerable when their button(s) are pushed. A teacher who is creating a positive learning environment responds to disrespect with respect.
While it is important for teachers to listen and understand what the kids in the classroom are feeling, it is also important that the students understand how the teacher is feeling. Using an “I” Message is a way to express your own needs, expectations, problems, feelings or concerns to your children in a respectful way that does not attack them.
I-messages are important for maintaining the positive classroom because they foster open communication and allow a teacher to avoid letting negative emotions build up.
The benefits of I-messaging can include:
- helping you to get clearer about your feelings as you communicate them to your students,
- modeling healthy ways of dealing with feelings,
- providing a way for you to express anger without insulting students or diminishing their self-esteem,
- informing students of your reaction to their behavior,
- giving students the opportunity to be responsive to your needs by acting differently, thus helping them become less egocentric as they consider the effect of their behavior on other people,
- opening the doors to honest communication,
- contributing to a healthy relationship, increase in trust and a sense of connection.
Be a role model — always
An upbeat attitude goes a long way toward creating a positive learning environment.
Keep practicing being positive. Spend an entire day being warm and friendly to everyone you encounter and reflect on that experience. How comfortable were you in doing this? Was it more difficult to be warm and friendly to some people than to others? How did you feel at the end of the day?
Develop your own unique plan to recreate within yourself the affirming teacher and role model that you’ve always wanted to be. Put together a plan that you will follow religiously for two weeks for the purpose of honing your positive people skills. Being clear with your instructions and expectations will reduce the likelihood of ongoing disruption and interruptions.
Develop positive strategies will you use at parent conferences or any other time you meet your student’s parents. Develop strategies to deal with difficult situations in the classroom while keeping your cool. Enroll in a professional development course that teaches how to create a positive classroom environment.
Go back to the mirror again.