Creating a Positive Classroom Community

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 24, 2012

    I just subbed during my prep for a 6th grade teacher and I have to say I was very impressed by the classroom climate and community that was in that classroom.

    The students were all very warm towards each other, everyone knew each other, not to mention, her classroom is so well managed, it would probably have run without me being there.

    I was really impressed by the community though. One thing I noticed that may have contributed towards it was their practice of journal reading. The student leader picked 3 students to read their journals. At the end of each journal reading, students provided their thoughts, compliments, constructive criticism. I think one of the key community building factors was the opportunity for students to give each other compliments. They all seemed really appreciative of it.

    I have been thinking of a way to integrate compliments into my classroom, but I am having trouble. I am 8th grade science. 8th graders are sketchy figures as it is, but there really doesn't seem to be any room in science for students to provide feedback for personal creative work other than in group presentations, and I would like it to be more frequent and more individual. I mean in most of the activities we do, you are either correct or you aren't.

    Are there any activity ideas you can provide me that will allow for this type of positive interaction between students?
     
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  3. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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  4. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Oct 24, 2012

    You can build peer-compliments into the classroom routine even without creative projects, etc. It can be as simple as teaching the students how to have a class discussion in a way that is acknowledging others' responses. For example each time someone responds to another's comment, they can say "Johnny brought a good point, I haven't thought of that before" or "Although Melissa did a very good job explaining...., I would also add....". etc.
    Of course you have to teach this, they have to practice it, but after a short while it will be natural for them, and they will show appreciation for others. I have seen sentence starters like these on classroom walls.
     
  5. Rebecca1122

    Rebecca1122 Comrade

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    I do snap cups in my room (from Legally Blonde)! I have a bowl for each class period in the back of my room next to a cup with slips of paper and pens. Throughout the week, the kids can write anonymous compliments/kind words to one another and put them in their class' snap cup bowl. The last five-ten minutes of class on Friday we meet on my carpet (yes, I have a rug in my middle school room) and do two things. The first is Thanksgiving Circle. TG Circle is something that we did as a staff at a camp I worked at and I love it. We just go around and say something we are thankful for. Then I read the snap cups for the week. I read the name of the person it is for and they can say pass or go. Go means read it out loud, pass means hand it to them. The kids LOVE snap cup time. They are great about writing nice things to each other and I think it creates community when we are all down there together and saying positive things. On my end of the survey last year, a lot of kids wrote that a time they felt respected in my class was during this time because I was 'on their level'. I don't read any snap cups that are unkind or inappropriate, those just get thrown away. I hardly ever have an issue with this.

    We also do social contracts which I think helps them feel a sense of community.
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Ooooh! I love this idea, and paired with Linguist's idea, I think it could become very powerful.

    @Linguist: I like that, and I was aware of that, but I still haven't gotten to the point yet, where I know how to structure meaningful classroom discussions. What ends up happening is that a few students are discussing, and the others are buzzing about what games they're going to play at home or what so-and-so did and who's dating who.

    I've tried calling on individuals to discuss one at a time, but I really need to think through a good system for discussion or else I am going to fall flat on my face, and I haven't read about or found a really good one.
     
  7. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    I think this is how I would set it up, of course after they know how to make comments and contribute to the discussion:
    - after reading a section, they answer a coupe of questions about it, writing, independently. You can also have them work in pairs or just some of them if it's too advanced of a topic. You circulate the classroom so you know everyone has written down something, so you can call on them, and they will have something to say.
    - you call on a student to share his thoughts, then you call on someone else to respond. You don't really say much, you basically facilitate the discussion.
    - you can assign participation points; I think, to keep track easily I would make a stick with each student's name, and keep puuling one for them to talk, or if they raise their hand, you take out the stick (keep it in a cup). Within 2-3 days you will probably have enough discussions that everyone had a chance to contribute and this way you know who did / who didn't, they know they get points.
    By you calling on students, they know they have to pay attention, otherwise they won't get the points and get get written up for off-task behavior.

    If you start with topics that are of high interest to them, they'll be more willing to participate, get the hang of it and enoy it, and then later they'll participate with any topic.
    For example in a biology class now we're going over preventing heart disease. These guys havd so many comments and questions about a healthy diet (not all comment were correct though, which is better for a discussion), and I know they will have even more when it comes to exercise.
     
  8. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Oct 25, 2012

    I actually researched how to create a positive classroom climate when in my master's degree. One factor is collaboration between students and teacher, and students with other students in the class. It sounds like that's what they're doing.
     
  9. Jeky

    Jeky Comrade

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    Oct 25, 2012

    Check out Hal Urban's "Lessons from the Classroom". It has lots of practical advice for creating a positive classroom environment at the secondary level :)
     
  10. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Nov 4, 2012

    I thought of some more things that might be beneficial, or at least worth a try:
    - first of all, obviously the classroom has to have a positive vibe. The teacher must show appreciation and respect towards the students for them to be able to do the same.
    - the teacher must strictly enforce tolerance: no name calling, picking on others, nasty comments, laughing at someone because he didn't pronounce a word correctly, etc. These can make a huge difference.
    I have always been pleasantly surprised that in the lock up we have so many different levels of skills, knowledge, etc, that I would think this would be a problem. It hasn't, at the most they lovingly tease each other, which I still don't allow, because who knows, it may not be loving after all. But they don't laugh at each other, some of them read at 4th grade level, and feel shy, but the others don't pick on them.
    - put the students in groups to do some competition, this will build teamwork. After a few weeks, rearrange the groups, and keep doing that. This way at some point all the students have worked together, competing against the others.
    - don't just talk about / enforce tolerance and community, teach it.
    - celebrate and praise every small instances of signs of a community and appreciation.
     
  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I've been most worried about this. Sometimes it will be something like a student gets a wrong answer, and another student will blurt out the right answer followed with "Duh!"

    I give the student an eyeful of death glare, and maybe say something like "I don't need that in this class room ___________."

    But sometimes I feel like it's not enough.
     
  12. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    What if you make it a habit of saying "that was not nice, please apologize", and make sure they do it.

    I always, always emphasize that even teachers don't know some things. I also use myself as an example: I have an accent, I mispronounce some words, and I am 'supposed' to be an English teacher. I tell them that we learn new words / things all the time.
    When I say things like these, I always see on their faces that they feel better, because I don't look down on them, I appreciate them, in turn they won't feel so insecure, and won't feel the need to belittle others.
     
  13. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Nov 4, 2012

    With older students, I find 2 things work best to begin.

    #1) Have students give compliments anonymously in writing. When the peer group is taken away, 8th graders can really be kind. Otherwise some are really worried about "what others might think" if they make a compliment in front of everyone.

    #2) Chants and "mini-songs" sung or chanted to the same tune of a popular song. Start with a couple you make up and then allow students to suggest their own. (You always must have veto power). Each song have the lyrics of the chorus completely changed so the lyrics are a compliment. (each song or chant should only be 2-4 lines long). Some good songs to choose from are: Call Me Maybe, More by Usher, One Thing by New Direction, We Found Love by Rhianna or Dynamite by Tao Cruz. They all have a chorus that is catchy, clean, and that the students are familiar with. These are done quickly after a student has given a good answer. The students love it! The shy students join in with the louder more outgoing students after a day or two.

    Once students are familiar with these then more personal and sincere compliments become much easier.
     

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