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Four Approaches to Building A Positive Community in Any Classroom

The classroom is similar to a community. For students to feel good in that community, you need to make sure the atmosphere is positive, enabling and liberating. Of course, those kinds of words are a great deal easier to write than to actually implement. Fortunately, they're not impossible to put into practice. You just need to know what strategies will work for you. Here are a number of approaches you can take that will foster a positive attitude in your classroom. By putting them into action, your classroom will become a place where your students will love to come.

Share and be known

Many students don't like getting in front of the whole class to talk. One strategy is to divide students into small groups and have them talk amongst themselves. Find some common questions that people find easy to talk about, like:

  1. What kind of music do you like?
  2. If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
  3. Have you ever been to a museum, zoo, farm or anything like that? What was it like?
These questions aren't too difficult, but will still invite conversation. Give each student 45 seconds to talk, then move to the next student. When everybody has had a turn, let them decide how they want to present that information to the rest of the class. Will they focus on one thing, will they share everybody's information or will they come up with a different solution?

The great thing about this strategy as a teacher is that you can move about and spot problems. That will allow you to redirect the conversation where needed. This exercise can be done more than once. Just remember to mix up the groups, so that people don't start feeling an ingroup - outgroup mentality.

Stand up for communalities

Here's a chance to get students to find out who shares a common interest with them. Create a list of possible things that are true for a few of them. Then, read out the list and let those students that it's true of to stand up.

These can be innocuous questions, like if they like a certain TV show. They can also - if you feel there is enough trust - go slightly deeper. Do you sometimes feel lonely? Do you worry about what other people think of you? Often, just by seeing that they have communalities with other students, bonds will form.

You can take this a step further. For example, when you find a question excites them or the response surprises them, get them to discuss that. Maybe they can split off into a group and discuss their shared interest or admission.

Start with yourself

Of course, we'd like to think we're positive and optimistic. But how sure are you that that is actually the case? Before walking into a classroom, start by making sure you're as optimistic as you can be. This doesn't just mean 'think happy thoughts'. In fact, that's often ineffective. What works better is to know when you're doing things that other people might experience as negative.

To get at these, you need to ask other people, as they have a much better idea of how you are on the outside than you do. Another good strategy is to film yourself while teaching so that afterward you can take a look at your actions and behavior. What you want to focus on:

  1. Is your body language open and inviting?
  2. Do you use first names a lot?
  3. Are you engaged with all students equally, including the more difficult ones?
  4. Is everybody getting an equal share of your attention?
  5. Are you being fair?
  6. Are you being respectful when you take back control or ask for students to quiet down?
Particularly for younger students, you are a very important role model. For that reason, it's absolutely vital that you start with yourself when you want to make sure you create a positive classroom atmosphere.

Create a set of rules and make them clear

If you generate a set of rules that gives rise to a feeling of respect and trust, that will hugely aid your attempts at creating a positive community. There are several ways that you can craft such a set of rules - top down or as a group.

Why not discuss these rules with the students? Talk about why they're there and what would happen if they were not there. Discuss if they think the rules are satisfactory as they are or if they would suggest changes. In this way, they feel like they own the rules and therefore are far more likely to follow them and to respect them.

Last words

As with any community of people, sometimes the smallest things can set off a negative spiral. For that reason, as a teacher, you need to be aware of what's going on and stop such a spiral before it goes out of control.

Fortunately, a happy community can also be set in motion and allow you to create a virtuous cycle, where they increase trust and make people feel more like a little community where ideas can be safely shared. To get one of these cycles going, you have to make sure that your students feel a bond with each other and with you. Once you've got that in place and you can prevent the negative behavior from knocking that bond off kilter, everything else should fall right into place.

Author: Pat Fredshaw is a tutor and a passionate blogger and content writer on study clerk website. She mostly writes about writing tips, self-development, and blogging. Also, you can visit her website - https://www.essayassistant.org. 



Internet4classrooms is a collaborative effort by Susan Brooks and Bill Byles.




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