Creating a Positive Classroom Climate Series Part I: Creating Community

    Boy clip art A positive classroom climate is a subject very dear to me as a teacher. I researched this topic as well when I went through my master's program just so I could learn more about it, and really become effective in this area. I would like to re-examine some of what came out of my readings and research.
    Today I am going to focus on building a classroom community. Every year my first priority in the classroom is to build the community up so my students can learn. Learning does not easily happen if a student does not feel safe or comfortable, which is what makes this issue so important. The community is affected by several factors, some beyond what the teacher can control, but there are so many factors that are in our reach that we truly can make a huge difference.
     One way to build community is to have a no-tolerance policy of bullying, or any sort of negative behavior towards one another. I begin the year doing a neighbors unit, which stresses kind behavior towards others, and it proves to be a unit we refer to for the rest of the year. During this unit, we really examine what behavior is and is not appropriate in the classroom, and then the students are expected to follow those guidelines strictly. Any negative words towards students are dealt with by behavior report, which lowers the student's conduct points, and stays on his/her permanent record. This really puts the importance on treating others kindly, and is a huge incentive for the students to abide by this.
     I also give my students lots of room for making their own choices, which is another way to build community. They can choose what to read during our Daily 3 time, they give me input on what sort of activities they would like to do, and they tell me what things they would like to learn about (you can do this when you do your KWL charts) and I incorporate those things. Giving students choices, and allowing them to influence their own learning helps them to appreciate the learning even more. In my opinion, this is especially important in the older grades when students begin to feel a bit rebellious, and come to resent when teachers dictate everything to them. We have to make learning relevant and meaningful to our students, otherwise they remain uninterested, making it very difficult for learning to occur.
    Collaboration is another huge factor in building a positive classroom community. Collaboration entails students working together, as well as the teacher and students. This goes back to giving students choices (as in collaborating on future units, projects, etc.), but is also much more than that. Collaboration helps students who might otherwise struggle on their own, as it opens their minds to other ideas, opinions, and allows them to see things differently. It also brings a social aspect into their learning, which is hugely important. Kids love to be social, and adding the social aspect to their learning makes the learning much more enjoyable. It also reflects "the real world". In most occupations (and in most areas of life) we work together, and this is great preparation for that as it allows students to build the social skills they need.
    There will be more to come in this classroom climate series. In the mean time, I would love to hear how all of you build up your classroom community.