When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Consider students as the lettuce, and the teacher is the farmer. To ensure that the lettuce grows well, the teacher must create an environment that is positive and fosters learning and growth.
In this article, we look at the importance of creating a positive learning environment in classrooms. A positive learning environment is a result of a number of factors, some of which include:
- Class procedures and routines – Procedures and routines help you define the protocols that should be followed while conducting different activities in class. For example, what behavior should be followed when students enter and exit class and while doing group activities? How should students deal with conflicts in and outside class? Work with students to build procedures and routines, by asking them a frame rules, you automatically get their buy-in.
- Ambience - Does the class appear inviting and welcoming. If we ask you to picture a pre-k classe, you may think of colorful walls, murals, and collages. These classes feel happy and lively. Can you picture elementary and high-school classes the same way, some classes maybe “yes” but not a definite “yes”. But, why not? Why do we assume that higher classes require serious studies and hence need not look happy and lively? At the end, the audience is still children. So, make the effort to decorate the walls, with age-appropriate material. It’s a good idea to have one wall dedicated to displaying student work. Another wall, could maybe have a chart that describes classroom procedures and rules.
- Accommodate Student Interaction: Design your lesson plans such that they give students ample opportunity to interact and work as a group. Assign challenges to groups and have them solve it. Get them to think together and come up with innovative ideas. Encourage them to share their opinion. Group work helps build social skills such as leadership, teamwork, and responsibility, and helps build a community.
- Reinforce Positive Behavior: Recognize positive behavior and and reinforce it. Promote fairness and respect. Appreciate students for demonstrating positive behavior and encourage others to do so. But remember, not to publicize negative behavior. Always, address negative behavior separately with the individual student.
- Be a Role Model: It’s important that teachers follow the rules set for the class. If you want students to treat each other with respect, then you must be the first to do so. Students learn from teachers. So, it’s important for teachers to be conscious about their words and actions while in and outside class.
Here are some additional resources that explain more about the importance of creating a positive classroom environment and techniques for the same.
Article: Building a Positive, Trusting Classroom Environment: In this article, José Vilson, a middle school math teacher and coach shares techniques that he uses to create a positive and trusting classroom environment.
Resource: Positive Classroom Environment and Student Teacher Rapport: This resource explains simple strategies that teachers can adopt to build rapport with their students.
Resource: A Positive Learning Framework for Classroom Management: This resource describes the “Positive Learning Framework” model that is used in schools in Australia.
Video: Video 5 – Classroom Culture- Creating a Learning Environment: In this video, a teacher describes how by setting expectations with her students, she is able to foster a positive learning environment in class.
Video: Classroom Environment: In this video, Professor Richards, explains how he has created a judgement-free atmosphere in class to promote learning.
Video: Change it Up! Creating a positive school environment: A high-school teacher explains why it’s importance to cratea a positive learning environment for high-school students.
Video: The Positive Classroom – Structure: This video emphasizes the importance of creating a routine and structure in class.
Video: Creating Positive Learning Environments: This video lecture mixed with class video footage explains critical factors required to create positive learning environments.
Video: Ready to Learn: Creating a Positive Classroom Culture: In this video, Ms. Saul, shares strategies that have helped her create a a safe and inclusive classroom community.
Video: Positive Reinforcement for Class Participation: This video demonstrates how Ms. Hall sets expectations and recognizes positive behavior in class.
What strategies do you use to promote a positive learning environment in your class?