A healthy, successful school community has as its foundation a culture of positivity. This positivity is part of every interaction within the school, from teachers to students to support staff to parents. Schoolwide, building a positive culture begins at the classroom level. While your schoolwide matrix typically spells out what positive behavior looks like in a variety of settings, developing a positive mindset is part of social and emotional learning. But how do you build a positive classroom environment?
The Basics of Positivity
The term “positivity” can be a loaded concept. Thanks to popular culture, people expect to see positivity expressed as a sunny attitude and an innocent, simplistic view of life. While there is certainly room for happiness and cheer within a positive culture, it’s important to realize that positivity can exist even when times are tough.
Positivity is the foundation for optimism, which can manifest as reduced stress, greater resilience, better problem-solving skills, and higher levels of achievement. Positive, optimistic individuals often have greater motivation to work through challenges, both in the classroom and in life.
Development of a positive environment, both in the classroom and schoolwide, enables teachers and students alike to progress through challenging times.
Creating a Positive Classroom Environment
A classroom community thrives on the interactions between teacher and students, and it’s up to the teacher to set the tone. Shifting your perspective toward the positive can go a long way toward changing the classroom atmosphere. Change how you see your classroom when you:
Actively seek the positive – Most of us understand what it feels like to have our faults on display. For students, the learning process is filled with mistakes and hurdles. Be careful not to let the successes be overshadowed by the failures. There is a fine line between coaching and constant criticism. Focusing on the positive actions and abilities that students possess makes you a cheerleader.
Observe and Apply– Often, behavior is not an indicator of ability. Even your most challenging students have talents that don’t show up as academic success. Watch your students carefully to learn what excites them, what they can do well, and what makes them tick. Find ways to connect these strengths and talents to academics. Give them opportunities to develop their leadership abilities. Assign them classroom jobs to give them a sense of purpose.
Provide Accommodations – Each student has strengths and challenges, and for those with learning differences, an IEP or 504 plan can help to level the playing field. For these students and many others, using assistive technology can boost skills and learning. Even something as simple as accepting printed or typed work instead of requiring cursive can build confidence and put a positive focus on what a student can do.
Teachers can have profound influence on classroom dynamics, and the way they view their students can make all the difference. But increasing positivity in the classroom is not the sole responsibility of the teacher. Students need to learn how to develop a positive mindset, as well.
Giving Students the Tools for Positivity
Just like you create lesson plans for academics, you can teach students actions and activities that foster resilience and well-being. Once they move on from your classroom, they will have the skills and abilities to continue their academic journey with confidence. Help your students get in touch with positivity by:
Student journals have been a mainstay in classrooms for many years. In addition to helping students to learn to organize ideas and develop writing skills, journaling has numerous benefits. Students who journal can use this activity to set goals, work through emotions, and reflect on their progress. As a non-graded activity, journals are free from academic pressure and enable teachers to identify students who need additional help.
A restless classroom is a classroom that is ripe for negative behavior. With the number of minutes devoted to recess and physical activity in schools dwindling, incorporating exercise can be a big boost to student well-being. Students can use exercise to calm anxiety before a test, blow off steam, and release pent-up energy. The physical release and mood boost that exercise provides enables students to view challenges in a more positive light.
Learning to be present in the moment is a valuable skill that can benefit students throughout their lives. A mindfulness or meditation practice, introduced at the beginning of a class or prior to any sort of transition can help students to focus. Mindfulness exercises can improve emotional regulation, enable students to manage stress and anxiety, and lead to the development of a positive outlook.
• Random Acts of Kindness
Few things in this world are more satisfying than doing something nice for someone else, just because. Generosity without expectation of reciprocation can help build feelings of positivity for both the giver and the receiver. There are plenty of ways to encourage students of all ages to practice random acts of kindness. It might take a little bit of guidance on your part to get them started, but once your students get a taste of the positivity that comes with being kind, acts of kindness will come unprompted.
PBIS and Positivity
It’s important to realize, however, that positivity is not simply a rosy view of every situation, nor is it a means to gloss over serious issues. Instead, positivity is a tool for dealing with issues in a productive manner.
Building a positive classroom environment should include plenty of positive reinforcement. In fact, positive interactions should outnumber negative ones by a ratio of 4:1.
A PBIS initiative enables educators to change the focus of their classroom and concentrate on expectations instead of rules. The natural result of this is increased positivity in the classroom and beyond. For schools using PBIS Rewards, extending recognition beyond the classroom is simple. Staff throughout the school can acknowledge positive behavior and award points to any student, anywhere.
We’d love to show you how to empower your teachers to build a positive classroom environment through simple, positive recognition. Just request a demo of PBIS Rewards!