Creating a Strong Classroom Culture
Here's where we get down to brass tacks. Words have meaning and power. We have to use them intentionally as we work to create a class culture. Decide on what the identity you want your want your class to have. Who are you as a class? Or who do you want to be? Saying things like: "Caring about each other is important here." "As learners, we are inquisitive and hard working." These statements make important assumptions. We are committed to being learners, and we are all caring people here. These are powerful ideas. We want our students to be learners, to be helpful and to participate. So, how do we promote the ideas about the culture we want to create and get students on board?
Your words have power. Use them carefully and intentionally. I suggest coming up with some key phrases for how you will speak to students when they are: struggling, annoying, mean, joyful, successful, .... Take the time to practice them. How we speak to our students will set the tone of the classroom. Our speech determines how they will speak to each other. Think. What kinds of things do we hope our students will be overheard saying to each other? Let's set them up for success by modeling these same words ourselves. Need some inspiration or examples of powerful words? Try reading Choice Words by Peter Johnston.
We now have 3 lists with some edits from our observations: Daily Function, Character Traits, and Deal Breakers. It's time to start using them.
I like to start by thinking about the character traits I want my students to have. What traits do our students need to be successful in school and in adult life? Of course, there are behaviors we expect from students. What are those behaviors? Creating a motto or saying helps to remind us and our students what we are about.
Take a look at your notes for Daily Function. What is your desired function and what is really happening? Start mapping out changes. Make a checklist of things that are broken and start working on them, one at a time.
Look for high value activities that will give you fast results. Then, work on the rest over time.
Early wins keep us hopeful and committed. Check your Daily Function list. Do you need to change a routine or re-train your students in the desired routine? Re-training your class in the routines and expectations can fix many problems. Sometimes the problem is not my students, but me. At times, I get off track and am inconsistent. When that is the case, I have to re-train myself. It happens. Check. Do you need to do this? If so, fix it.
Your school has a mission statement. Write a mission statement for your class as well. Don't miss this step! A clear mission statement is a game changer. A classroom mission statement should be different from, but have some similarities to, the school's mission statement. What is it you are all about or want to be all about? Repeating it every day helps. Convince yourselves of it. Make your mission statement simple and understandable for all of your students.
Seriously consider changes and updates to your mission statement, as necessary. Mission statements should be a living documents, not wallpaper. I've created a starting point for you. Grab it here. Edit it. Change it to fit your needs. Don't get stuck. Continue to re-evaluate it every year.
Week 1: Creating a Classroom Culture: Classroom Management vs. Creating a Culture
Week 2: Creating a Classroom Culture: Observation, Curiosity and a Simple Saying
Week 4: Creating a Classroom Culture: Wrapping It Up