Humans learn best when they feel valued and that they are a member of a positive community.
Here are some easy ways to make that happen in your classroom:
Model Kindness and Engagement
Teachers are super models! That means that your students are watching you for cues about how to act in your class, and that you can easily model positive behaviors. If you show kindness and empathy, they will too. The same goes for showing excitement for learning: if you are actively engaged in your teaching, your enthusiasm will be infectious. Teach like your entire body is alight with passion. Your zeal for learning will radiate outwards from you and pervade your classroom, making it a joyful place to learn.
Allow Student Interests and Strengths Room to Shine
When you are good at something, you feel proud. Give your students this opportunity within your curriculum and class to develop and showcase their strengths. If you are teaching science and you have a gifted storyteller, let her write lab reports as fantasy stories. If you are teaching writing, and you have a talented artist, let him create a graphic novel. Positivity and engagement will flourish. Although you may be teaching a certain subject, remember that student engagement depends on whether students feel that the material that they are learning is relevant to their lives and interests. Look at your learning objectives and see if you can make a real-world connection or application of their learning to bring your lessons to life.
Put Students in the Driver’s Seat
Active learners are happy learners. Step away from the lecturn and find out what engages your students. Classrooms with a strong culture of inquiry have been shown to have some of the happiest learners. Let them ask questions and then chase down those answers together. This is the learning that will stick with them!
Make your Culture Unique (and fun!)
Students always remember the small things that a teacher does. What traditions does your learning “tribe” have? Do you high-five students and greet them by name when they come into your class? Do you have a class instagram account? Is there a student collaboration whiteboard on your wall? Do you call your student “scholars”? Those are just a few examples of class traditions from several teachers that I’ve known. There is no wrong or right; find a positive way to draw your students into your class!
What do you do to create a positive class? Let us know in the comments!