POSITIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM
A few of our recent blogs have focussed on ways to improve student engagement by concentrating on the learning environment. This week’s blog will be about bringing positivity into the classroom. Positivity is one of those slightly vague concepts that we all strive towards. Because of its ephemeral nature, it can be hard to take concrete steps towards bringing more positivity to your environment. This is especially true when you are trying to infuse positivity into a space that belongs to many people. While a classroom may be ‘yours’, it is a space jointly inhabited by you and your students. Therefore it is essential to create a space that feels positive for everybody.
Studies have shown that students learn better in an environment that is positive and supportive. If they feel a sense of belonging and trust in the people around them, then they will be more willing to participate and engage in their education. There are a lot of outside factors involved in students’ own positivity, but if you create a strong environment of positive energy in your classroom, it makes it harder to disrupt that equilibrium. Not only will this improve student’s learning experiences while in your space, but it will hopefully help them to develop skills to maintain that positivity in other aspects of their life. If successful, positive learning experiences help children to deal with the ups and downs of life and prevents them from fixating on negative experiences and becoming discouraged by setbacks.
Whether or not your classroom is already a pretty positive place, it can be a good idea to take stock of the current situation before you try to make any changes. Spend some time observing your students, both on good days and bad to try and discern patterns in distraction and misbehaviour. Focus on what comes before periods of engaged work to try and replicate those situations while minimising the precursors to negative behaviours. Observing the patterns of behaviour in your classroom is all about uncovering the root causes of harmful actions and trying to mitigate them or replace them with things that increase positive behaviours.
Classroom analysis is useful when developing a classroom Code of Conduct. This Code of Conduct should be developed in collaboration with your students. As a class, you need to establish how you wish to be treated and create rules based around behaviours that generate a positive learning environment. Behaviours such as respect, fairness, and empathy are a great place to start. Involving students in the creation of a code of conduct means they are more likely to follow it, and less likely to protest their reprimand if they break the rules. Praising and reinforcing positive behaviours rather than dwelling on negative ones, is extremely important to the long-term maintenance of a positive learning environment. Discussing positive behaviours as a class also makes sure everybody is on the same page.
One way to reinforce the importance of positive behaviour is by incorporating the idea of positive actions into your curriculum. Positive actions include many things from critical thinking and participating in group exercises, to exercising and helping struggling classmates. Identifying and encouraging positive activities will allow students to mitigate unpleasant experiences by focusing on the positive steps they can take to avoid or improve them. Helping students to engage with or learn about positive role models is a great way to reinforce the importance of taking an active role in creating positive experiences and achieving goals.
It is easier for students to think positive about their education if they feel what they are learning is relevant. Tailoring your teaching to student interests increases the association between learning and success. This helps build trust within the classroom which creates the ideal environment to build positive relationships and facilitates clear communication. Giving students an element of control over their education influences positive behaviours like self-motivation which are critical factors in students’ ability to reap the full rewards of a positive learning environment.
The most important thing to remember when balancing the needs and emotions of your students is to stay positive yourself. Your classroom won’t transform into a haven of positivity overnight, but if you take the time, and put in the effort, you will succeed.
Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed with planning, you’re spending too much time on school work and not enough at home with your family, your leisure time is non-existent…we give you all this free-time back by planning, preparing and creating teaching resources that have been developed by classroom teachers who have over 40 years’ experience teaching children in the classroom.
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