Learning in a group setting is optimal when lessons flow smoothly and students learn crucial civic-mindedness. That’s why, besides planning for quality lessons, it’s important to instil great classroom culture where students feel supported and lessons are conducted without much time wastage. It may involve a little bit more work, but your students will certainly benefit. Here are some tips for creating amazing classroom culture your kids will love.
Where possible, think about the type of classroom culture you want to create before the school year starts, and have everything ready before the first class of the year. There are some things you can prepare, which include rule charts (keep it to 3 hard rules max on the chart), a value board, and a few options for consequences to discuss with your students.
During the first lesson of the year, try to use the time fully for deciding on values, non-negotiable rules, and a consequence system with your students. This can happen after an icebreaker session to start on a positive note.
Planting the roots from the beginning of the year will ensure that you won’t have to undo any bad habits later on. However, if you suddenly get a new class in the middle of the year, or if you have just realised current classroom culture is not ideal, it’s always possible to start at any time, but it may take longer to really reinforce rules and values.
While simplicity is the key to creating rules and discussing values with your students, age-appropriateness is equally as important. Some rules and class systems would work with more malleable, innocent students in primary school while others are better suited for students in their late teens who are aching for a taste of adulthood. Be sure to suggest consequences and rewards (if any) that your students would be willing to accept according to their age group, or you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle.
At the same time, remember that it’s not just age that matters. Student behaviour varies from classroom to classroom depending on who is in it. Cater the suggested values and rules to the maturity and openness levels of your different groups of students.
While rules and values are part of the equation, you can also do other things to help reinforce positive classroom culture, including using attention grabbers and positive reinforcement. Attention grabbers are an important tool to have to capture students’ focus immediately during chaotic times, such as after group work. Some good examples of attention grabbers can be found here.
On top of that, demotivated students may appreciate having a positive reinforcement system in place. For example, reward students with stickers or sweets when they answer your questions verbally or meet a certain cut-off score in the class test. However, make sure the system you choose is sometimes you can keep up with all year long.
Discuss common values such as punctuality and respect within the classroom to come to a mutual agreement. This will give a sense of ownership and commitment among the students. If it’s a particularly passive class, have a few common values ready to suggest (such as respect, being punctual, not talking when the teacher is talking etc) for students to vote on and commit to.
It’s also easier for the teacher to encourage them to get back on track if misbehaviour happens because they were part of the decision process. Discuss these values on day 1, and put them up on a poster or whiteboard you bring to class during lessons to remind the students.
Lastly, creating good classroom culture doesn’t mean that students don’t face consequences when they misbehave. Instead, students are completely aware of the different stages of consequence for their actions. For example, a student’s first misbehaviour is given a warning, the second involves extra classwork, the third requires a one-on-one meeting with the teacher, etc. The crucial thing is to be consistent when enforcing consequences on students, regardless of who they are.
A good way to create transparency in the classroom is to have behaviour charts which singles out misbehaving students. When penalising students for misbehaviour, be sure to state out loud the rule that was broken so the student and their classmates are completely aware of the reason.
As is obvious from the above, creating good classroom culture requires effort from the teachers to maintain. It’s well worth it though, because you are teaching students to focus on the good of the collective and demonstrate positive values in class.
A well-managed classroom with students who keep to the rules can ramp up the learning environment and encourage better retention of information as well as attendance. So, be sure to encourage an awesome culture among your students!
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