Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Some Ingredients for a positive classroom atmosphere

I can't work at a cluttered desk or sit on the sofa and relax when the house is a mess. I like warm colours and a view from my kitchen sink. I like flowers and plants and space. I don't like to argue with friends, family or my partner because it makes me feel 'bad'. 

Although we can't control all aspects of the atmosphere in our YL classroom environment, there are certain things that we can do as teachers to maximise the chances of a  positive classroom environment. I'm trying to compile a list of ingredients for a 'positive classroom environment'. Here are five of mine. Can you add any others? Please add them as a comment if any come to you. Many thanks.

Here are my  5 ingredients for a 'positive classroom atmosphere'

  1. One enthusiastic and positive teacher. Now many of you may be reading this and saying duh of course but , I've seen and heard teachers come into class and tell their students 'I've had a bad weekend so be warned!' Enthusiasm and positivity are contagious as is negativity. Teaching is a potentially stressful job that can be demanding. If we are confident and happy in ourselves we can transmit this to our children but equally if we are stressed and negative this can be transmitted. We have a duty to look after ourselves so that we can look after our children. Teachers lead by example in their behaviour and their attitude towards work. We have to be models for enthusiasm and motivation. If you need a bit of help in this department try this Total Physical Response / Action Research approach. Take an ordinary plastic band. Put it on your wrist. Make sure that it fits snugly. Go to class. Every time you have a negative thought or say something negative in class, take for mentioned elastic band and give it a good ping! (I learnt this from a self- help book it's quite effective)
  2.  A sense of security through classroom rules and routines.I can't overstate how important it is for there to be clear negotiated rules and for the teacher to impose those rules. Many classrooms have rules but I've seen many teachers NOT imposing the rules and then wondering where they are going wrong. The potential for chaos with one adult and 28 children stuck in a room together is enormous so we must make sure that their are clear guidelines for everyone to follow. 
  3. Praise  We all like to feel 'good' about ourselves. Praise is a way that we can help children feel good about themselves if it is done well. Praise for the sake of praise is worthless  even young children are quick to pick up on this.There are some people that say that to avoid 'labelling' we should praise actions rather than ability. Rather than saying 'Wow Maria you're a great artist' we should say ' Good job or great picture', some people go as far as to say that we should 'notice' rather than 'praise'. In 'noticing' we are highlighting rather than praising. We should say things like 'Wow you finished all of those questions'.One thing for sure is that  it's much more effective classroom management to praise rather than criticise. 
  4. A visually attractive classroom I once read that bare white walls in a classroom has a 'zen' like quality and meant that children wouldn't be distracted. I remember thinking what nonsense when I read it. I think that the importance of a visually attractive classroom cannot be understated. I once visited a classroom in Sumatra which had mud walls and floors and I'm sure that those kids would've loved to be sitting in a bright colourful classroom with walls decorated with posters and children's work.
  5. Self-confident children  Self-confident children are positive children. There are many different activities that we can do in class to help develop children's confidence. Jayne Moon (2000) says that children develop their self-image through the responses and reactions of others to them. Moon has many activities that are specifically developed for working on improving self-esteem of which my favourite is a star card. I used to use it with pre-teen children. basically each week one child is the star. The teacher makes a star card and all the children are given a piece of paper to write a positive statement about the child of the week. Statements such as 'You're always happy' or 'You always work hard in class' .
  6. Any more?????


  1. Dear Leahn

    I like all your suggestions above. They are very effective ingredients and activities for promoting well-being in the classroom.

    Have you played the "Compliments" game? You write a phrase on a sticky address label and you attach one label on each child's back. They then all stand up and walk around the class complimenting each other according to the prompt on the label. EG

    Say something nice about my hair

    Possible response could be:
    Victoria, I really like your hairstyle. It's lovely!

    Say something nice about my shoes

    Oh, Joey, I love your shoes. I would like to have the same!

    Say something nice about my shirt/blouse etc

    Isabella, I think your top is lovely! The colours are beautiful. It's my favourite colour etc

    Each child will have as many compliments showered on them as there are pupils in the class. It's like a hidden drill, but it is always great fun, even when I play it with adults. Of course, adapt the prompts to suit the level of the class. If the pupils are able to, get them to write up their own compliments prompt. You collect them in, mix them around and then hand one out for each child to stick on another child's back and then follow the procedure as above. There will definitely be a positive "buzz" while they are playing this game!

    All the best


  2. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for your suggestion. I'm going to try it and see how it goes. Sounds good.

    Thanks and take care


  3. Hi Leahn,
    This is a very timely post. I was listening to a talk by a colleague about developing a sense of well being and positivity in our school. I will share this with my staff. I think that while rules and routines are important it is also essential for children to feel like they are powerful and have choices to make about their own learning. I try to encourage this in my classroom by offering them choices of activities rather than directing them too much.

  4. Hi Pru,
    Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that choice is very empowering and I too like to give the children I teach choice as much as I can. Thanks for reminding me of the importance of CHOICE!



  5. Hi Leahn,

    Great blog!


  6. Hi S,

    Thank you that's very kind of you.