How to Create a Positive Classroom Culture with S.T.A.R.

I'm super psyched to be linking up with the Secondary Smorgasbord (thanks ELA Buffet and Desktop Learning Adventures for getting this blog linky started) today!  We're all discussing ways to create a positive classroom culture.  

As teachers we all strive to create a classroom that brings the very best out of our students.  We all want our classrooms to be a place where students feel safe and encouraged.  Here's the thing though, a positive classroom culture is not something that happens by accident.  It's something that needs to be nurtured and built throughout the school year.  

Today, I thought I'd share four really easy ways to do just that.  Each technique works together to form the word "STAR."  
S - Set Goals
T - Team Building
A - Accentuate the Positive
R - Reach Beyond the Classroom

I like to infuse the S.T.A.R. positive classroom techniques in my lessons all year long...and I hope you'll find some that can work in your classroom, too!

Setting goals is essential to a positive classroom culture.  That's because when we set intentions to better ourselves, we naturally improve our classroom community.  While it's important to teach students how to set, measure, and reflect on goals, I think it's also powerful to set goals as an educator.  

As teachers we naturally set goals all the time.  However, have you ever shared your goal setting process and reflection with students?  This can be a game changer.  The next time you set goals whether it be for a unit you are planning or school event or for students' success rate on an assessment, share it with students.  Show students how you set specific, measurable goals, and then, show them how you reflect back on your goals.  Modeling goal setting is so powerful!

Here's a goal setting idea that's perfect for students at the beginning of a new school year.  With this activity students progress through a goal-setting guide

 Then, they create a fun speech bubble with their goal inside.  As a class they combine their goals on a bulletin board.  In the center of the bulletin board is a quote poster that says, "Take Our Word For It, It's Going to Be a Great Year."  This activity helps students not only set goals but it projects a spirit of positivity right from the start of school.  You can find a FREE download of this goal setting and bulletin board resource HERE

Team building is essential to a positive classroom community because when students have strong skills to work collaboratively, the entire classroom is a more positive place to learn.  Encouraging teamwork among students helps them improve their speaking, listening, and social skills.  One of my favorite ways to foster team building is with lessons that not only help students master critical ELA skills, but also encourage them to work together as a team.  

Here's one of my favorites.  In this lesson students practice reading comprehension and figurative language while they work cooperatively with their peers.  First students work together to put a fable in the correct order.  Then, they answer questions as a team.  Finally, they reflect on their experiences as a team using figurative language while making a pennant banner.  

This activity is just one way to encourage students to work together as a team.  You could also find a ton of team building activities at this website.  I've found that making time to teach students how to work together has done wonders for creating a positive classroom culture!

Let's face it, if we want our classrooms to be positive places then we need to make it a practice to recognize students' individual contributions.  It can be as simple as spending a portion of the class period highlighting students or creating a bulletin board filled with news clippings, pictures, and examples of students doing awesome things, or writing personalized notes on students' papers recognizing their efforts.  Or, it can be as elaborate as assemblies or awards.  The idea is to make time to point out what kids are doing right!

Encouraging students to accentuate the positive with one another is also a critical component of creating a positive classroom community.  I love getting students to do that with this simple activity.  All you have to do is hand out a piece of colored paper to each student.  Have them write their name creatively and boldly at the top of the paper.  Then, have a discussion with students about what makes a good compliment.  Brainstorm meaningful compliments together.  Then, explain to students that they will be writing compliments to their classmates.  Have students place the paper they created on their desk and instruct them to move to a different desk.  At that desk they should write a meaningful compliment to their peer.  

Then, challenge students to rotate around the classroom until they have written a compliment for everyone.  Students love this activity.  Their compliment-filled-paper becomes a treasured item and a reminder of the positive classroom environment where it was created!  If you'd like a FREE version of this activity along with others that promote kindness in the classroom, just add your email address below and check your email inbox!

    If you happen to work with adolescents, you know that they can be a bit self-absorbed.  Students are often stuck in their own world.  However, I've found that if prompted, they have a deep desire to make a difference in their schools, towns, communities, and world.  That's why my final tip for creating a positive classroom culture is to set up opportunities for students to reach beyond the classroom.  Give students a chance to make a positive difference in others' lives and see how that impacts the culture in your own classroom.

    Here are some ideas to help students reach beyond the classroom:

    --- Have students write letters or design cards for residents in a local nursing home.
    --- Set up a reading-buddy program with a lower grade in your own school or district.
    --- Task students to complete a school beautification project.

    --- See if a local community organization needs help with their newsletter and have students write articles for the publication.
    --- Task students to complete random acts of kindness in their school, home, and community.

    --- Have students research community service projects that matter to them (Case for Smiles, Room to Read, Soles4Souls) and complete a community service project together.
    --- Let students turn their poems into place mats that can laminated and donated to programs like Meals on Wheels or Shelters providing food.
    --- Encourage students to assemble appreciation gifts for pivotal people in the community like police officers and fire fighters.

    The ideas for helping students help others are endless...and that's a good thing!  Giving students an opportunity to see the good in themselves by doing good for others is essential to creating a positive classroom culture!

    I hope you've found some easy ways to create and nurture a positive culture in your classroom.  If you're on the hunt for even more ways to make your classroom a better place to learn, be sure to sign up for the free set of kindness activities!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Mary Beth


      1. This is an acronym I can remember! I really like the Reach piece, getting them to expand their sphere of influence. Thanks for sharing these great ideas, Mary Beth.

      2. Great advice, Mary Beth! It's so important to set goals, and I love that you encourage your students to compliment one another and reach beyond the classroom. Thanks so much for sharing!

      3. Love STAR! I always tell my kids that we're a team and I'm the coach. This acronym fits perfectly.

      4. I love your acronym for the starting the year! I especially like the idea of reaching beyond. It is so important to take all our good vibes and share them!!

      5. I love your goal-setting freebie and the fabulous site that's chock full of team-building activities. Thanks for sharing your great ideas!

      6. Wonderful suggestions. Students do really benefit from goal setting. I love your ideas for reaching beyond the classroom. Thanks for the great post.


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