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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

32 Strategies for Building a Positive Learning Environment

32 Strategies for Building a Positive Learning Environment

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Two students collaborating, smiling

There are many ingredients that go into making a thriving learning environment. And whether it's your first year in education or your thirtieth, the first days, weeks, and months of the school year are the time to create the learning environment you want for your students.

Below, we've collected teacher-tips on creating a positive classroom from Edutopia's online community. ​They were contributed by the educators and parents of Edutopia’s community in response to our Start the Year Strong campaign. There were many amazing entries, and it was a challenge narrowing them down to these 32.

Tips generally fell into three categories:

Good Relationships

Get started early. Build positive relationships with students and parents starting with the first day of school. Let students get to know you (and each other) by preparing fun icebreakers or exchanging letters. Consider sending a letter home to parents or calling each home to establish those relationships right away.

Take your time. You may be tempted to jump right into content when the school year starts, but taking the time to build relationships will pay off later. You'll create individual relationships that last and a community for your students. 

Ask for help. Your fellow faculty and staff are your greatest resource. Reach out to the teachers next door or the thousands of teachers on Twitter. There will be someone out there who not only has an answer to your question, but wants to connect and join your professional circle.

Clear Communication

Speak their language. Use humor, tech, or other strategies to get on their level. That extra effort will go a long way in relating to students. This strategy can be used to present traditionally "mundane" information, like classroom rules and regulations.

Start from stratch. You might know your rules backwards and forwards, but remember your students are most likely new to your teaching style and expectations. Try not to assume your students know how to do seemingly basic tasks, like collaborating or taking notes. This can be time consuming, but like building relationships, it'll pay off.

Trust

Let your students make decisions. From classroom layout to project ideas, let students have a say. Fewer decisions for you to make and fun for students to feel like they helped create their environment.

Put your trust in technology. New tech can be daunting, but find one or two ways to make your class digital. Some educators suggest making a digital newletter for parents, posting photos and updates on Instagram or Twitter, creating a class blog, or using edtech resources like GoogleForms or Remind. This is a great way to engage students when class isn't in session.

Trust yourself! Think of the beginning of each school year as filled with amazing potential, and know you don't have to get everything perfect on the first day or in the first weeks. 

“Remember that you and your students are only human. You can plan, map, and research all summer, but once those kids get in the room anything can happen.  You don't have to have everything together on day one." - Amy Hirzel

You can find the complete presentation (and all 32 tips) here:

We recommend also checking out the original discussion, which you can find here: https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/start-year-strong-sweepstakes

Every classroom is different, so please come back and share what you've learned and what works for you!

NOTE: If you're having trouble viewing the presentation on this forum, click here to view it directly. You can also save the presentation as a .pdf file by selecting the gear in the bottom left-hand corner and clicking "Download as PDF." 


This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (13) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Leahlovesdogs's picture

So many great tips! I have to wonder with the idea to create a social media page and post picture of students if parents ever get upset with having the students picture online. Has anyone tried this?

I love the idea of treating student like your own kids and finding something positive in each one. It can be easy to become jaded in teaching. Putting that positive mindset on your students can positively change the way the school year goes.

I also love the idea to have a parents write a letter about their child before school starts. It's a great way to learn about the student from the people who know them best and to also connect with parents right away.

Great hopeful and positive presentation!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Leahlovesdogs, Twitter will let you make a private account that people can access only after you give them permission. Facebook will let you make private groups, also needing permission before you can join.

The other option is to get photo releases from the parents for their children. This used to be more an issue, but given how free most parents are with posting pictures of their kids online, it's becoming less so.

Melissa's picture
Melissa
Middle School Math Intervention Teacher

Good article. Starting immediately in the year has helped me build good relationships with families.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

Melissa, good point. Starting early (and on the right foot) is really key to developing a good relationship. Just out of curiosity, how did you introduce yourself to your students' parents?

Melissa's picture
Melissa
Middle School Math Intervention Teacher

On Back to School night I introduced myself as the Intervention Teacher and had a syllabus for them.

mtcall's picture

As a parent I would say that the number one quality a teacher should have is a positive relationship with their students. Sadly some teacher's don't realize the great impact they have on their students when negatively grading their work and tests. This also makes parents wonder "What's going on in the classroom? Are they being negative and unkind in person?"

A year ago we listened to a Ted Talk from a renowned educator in the nation who works with kids in low income city areas. She started marking their work with +8, e.g. instead of the usual -4, e.g. This was combined with her positive in class work with the kids. Her kids responded with improved retention, understanding and better scores on their work. A teacher's positivity cannot be overrated. It's the number one thing in my book.

We have had this problem this year with our son's second grade teacher. She just can't seem to understand the negative impact she is having with how she is grading. The expectations are not clear, the point system doesn't reflect those expectations, she grades with red ink (a major no no), everything is graded with negative points, never any written comments on work that are encouraging and positive.

This last test my son took he had written 5 correct spelling sentences-gotten all the capitalization, punctuation, spelling and usage correct. On the top of his paper in red she wrote "You only need 4 sentences". Where's the positivity?

When I met with her for PT conference, she wouldn't admit that she could have graded differently and never said she was sorry. If I could give this new teacher (and any other teacher's out there) some advice it would be: grade how you would want to be graded, be able to be wrong and open to new ideas, apologize. All those things go a long way with parents and kids.

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