Students feel comfortable, confident, and successful when they know what is expected of them and can meet those expectations. These expectations combined with classroom routines, procedures, and organization create a positive classroom learning environment that increases students’ ability to learn and be successful. In recent years, many schools and teachers have witnessed an increased prevalence of social and emotional needs as well as challenging student behaviors. Individually, these concerns cause problems for students as they develop their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, while holistically, these concerns within the classroom can potentially disrupt learning.
To mitigate these concerns, classrooms, schools, and districts have created plans for social and emotional learning, positive student behavior, and classroom and school-wide expectations, routines, and procedures. Collectively, these essential elements establish the strong foundation needed to create a positive learning environment that is welcoming for all students and safe for learning and discovery.
Generate Positive Student Behavior and Outcomes
As a previous school administrator, little was more concerning than a teacher getting frustrated with a student’s behavior when the structure within their classroom lacked the basic routines, procedures, and expectations needed to create a positive classroom environment in which the student could be successful. Students cannot be successful in terms of their behavior, or academic learning, without an environment that has been intentionally created for this purpose. This is most certainly step one, the foundation for a successful and positive school year for both the students and the teacher.
So how do teachers create a learning environment that is structured, organized, consistent, inviting, and engaging? Well, it is much easier than it sounds and hinges on the creation of a classroom environment prior to students arriving in the classroom, and preferably before the first day of school. Of course, these ideas can be implemented at any time throughout the school year, but it is always best to start on the right track!
Here are six key components of creating a classroom environment that results in positive student behavior and outcomes:
1. Positive & welcoming atmosphere that is clean and minimalist
Classrooms that create a positive and professional environment inspire community and learning. Classroom storage and organization are key and create a professional environment that is student-centered and engaging. Clutter and chaos are visually distracting and overly stimulating for students. That means organizing those piles of papers and folders, possible through the use of items such as these desktop trays and sorters. Classroom decorations and aesthetics also play a role in accomplishing this objective. We want students to feel comfortable, safe, and inspired by their learning environment.
2. Establish clear routines and procedures
Teachers need a plan for how everything in their classroom will take place. This is done through the establishment of clear routines and procedures. Teachers must think through, plan, and then teach these routines and procedures effectively. Students should know where things are located and how these tools should be utilized to create flow, consistency, and success throughout the school day.
3. Consistent student expectations that meet the needs of all students
How can students successfully meet expectations if they don’t even know what is expected of them in the first place, or if those expectations keep changing? By nature, ALL students crave positive attention. Consistency and structure are comforting to students and result in the meeting of expectations and positive praise. Additionally, while some expectations pertain to the class, teachers must also plan for and meet the needs of individual students who sometimes need even more specific expectations or expectations presented differently. Individualizing for the needs of students is another component of creating expectations that generate success for all students.
4. Organization is key—Everything has a place and everything in its place!
Ensuring that all student and teacher items are organized and structured creates independence and confidence within an environment that is student-centered and guided. Additionally, collaborative tools and spaces are created through this organizational process which allows students to practice and learn social and communication skills. For this to be successful, students need to know where items are located, how to utilize these resources, and be able to easily access these tools.
5. Plan the routines and procedures for celebrating students
You can never celebrate student successes too much. Positive encouragement and recognition are by far the most motivating form of behavior reinforcement. Through clear and consistent expectations, recognition of achievement, be it through awards and incentives or other established procedures, empowers students, reinforces desired outcomes, and builds confident and happy students. Celebrating students, be it big or small, with tangible items, words of affirmation, time and attention, or some other form of enforcement creates happy hearts and engaged minds. This type of character education is a huge byproduct of everyday learning and an important part of any classroom.
6. Quiet, private, and calm areas for personal time and reflection
Spaces, such as calm down corners or other areas within a classroom designed for the same purpose, provide a safe and secure place for a student’s regulation of their emotions and body. When organizing a classroom, teachers need to create these areas, plan how the space will be utilized, including all components within the area, and then teach students the purpose as well as how to utilize everything effectively. There are a lot of fun ideas and product options available from self-regulation strategies to soft seating, timers, fidgets, books and more!
Teachers who have quality routines, clear procedures, and consistent expectations will see positive outcomes in terms of their overall classroom environment and student behavior. Planning should include what routines, procedures, and expectations will be put in place, creating the materials needs, organizing them within the classroom, and then effectively teaching students why and how everything functions successfully within the classroom. This process results in improvements in student behaviors, increases in student achievement, and overall student happiness within a safe, collaborative, and positive learning environment.
Laura Nicole Hill
Nicole has served within the field of education for 16 years as a classroom teacher, specialist, assistant principal, and principal. She is certified as an educator in the areas of EC-12 Principal, EC-8 Generalist, 8-12 English Language Arts, Reading, and Social Studies, EC-12 Special Education, EC-12 Gifted and Talented, and EC-12 English as a Second Language. Her school experience varies and includes work with students in prekindergarten through 12th grade, both in Texas and Europe, and within communities that were uniquely diverse in terms of their demographics, size, and campus needs. While serving in these roles, she developed expertise in the areas of curriculum and instruction, professional development, and leadership. As the Instructional Solutions Subject Matter Expert for School Specialty, she provides expertise in the areas of Literacy and Math, as well as other content areas and classroom resources.
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