The True Definition of Classroom Culture
You may or may not have heard this term before, but there are a number of misconceptions about the definition of classroom culture. Let’s begin with what classroom culture is not.
Classroom culture is not:
- Something you only do at the beginning of the year
- Created only by the teacher
- A behavior management style
Classroom culture is:
- A safe space for students to engage in learning
- A trust between teacher and students
- An opportunity for everyone to share ideas and experiences
Whether your classroom is inside your home, a school, or elsewhere, a strong, positive classroom culture supports children’s social and emotional needs and development. Children thrive in a community where everyone contributes and everyone is valued. The classroom culture is created through the language we use, the responsibilities we encourage, and the procedures we teach. (Learn Classroom Culture and Environment)
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1. Greetings for Morning Meeting That Create Next-Level Classroom Culture
This daily routine of greetings for morning meeting will make or break your classroom culture for the rest of the year. It’s easy to get all psyched up at the beginning of the year and then slowly pull away from this practice over time. That’s completely normal! But, let me encourage you, no matter what your admin wants or what you have on your to-do list, make sure your morning meeting activities happen daily and include these elements:
- Everyone is greeted by name(correctly): This is so important! Yes some names may be more challenging than others, but make an effort to say it correctly. A name is a big part of your student’s identity, culture, self-worth, and learning their names quickly will show them how much you care. You can do a chant, sing a song, or play a number of different games.
- Everyone gets to share: I recommend doing this with a mascot that represents everything about your classroom culture. I like Quality Quentin. He’s a penguin that helps us with quality behavior. You can pass your mascot or toss your mascot(responsibly of course). If you’re short on time, pair and share is amazing for helping your students feel included!
- Everyone knows the expectations: This is where classroom culture separates from classroom management. We at Dynamic Learning like to say expectations instead of rules because a positive classroom culture is for everyone. It’s not students following the rules, it’s students working together to create an environment where everyone can learn. So let your students be part of the process.
Mine and my students’ favorite way to incorporate these elements has always been our Quality Students resources. I begin with reading this book that has all of our essential classroom culture vocabulary, then we sing our classroom behavior song. You can read more about the motions we do in this blog post.
I like to tell my students they will work as a team on certain activities, where I expect them to be kind and understanding. I tell my students that I want them to always do their BEST in everything they do!
2. Engaging with Students Through Essential Movement
The best way I have found of engaging with students is by getting them moving. My students need this so badly! The aim of movement activities is to enhance cognitive, physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Benefits of music and movement activities:
- Stimulate and engage the brain
- Improve coordination and physical abilities
- Strengthen social skills
- Teach emotional expression in a healthy way (Bear Paw Creek)
Turn on some music and dance, play games, try dramatic play. There are so many ways you can use this in your classroom.
3. Thinking Questions Make Share Time Even More Effective
I have my students answer one of our thinking questions by turning and talking to a neighbor about how they think they should act in school. I give them a few minutes to talk. They begin by telling their friends their names and what they think a quality student is. This is such a great way to make sure all my students are talking about what they are learning, and it also helps my shy students who don’t want to talk in front of the whole class.
I like to do a thinking question for one of my morning meeting questions because it gives my students the opportunity to share what is on their minds and by sharing those thoughts it helps their friends expand their thinking. It is such a wonderful way to increase social emotional learning.
Then, I pass Quentin around my circle and the students say their names and tell one thing a quality student does. Students who may be scared to say anything right away are allowed to just pass the mascot to the next child. The great thing I found with using a class mascot is the shy students will begin to share when they are holding Quentin. It gives them confidence to speak.
4. Vocabulary Teaching Strategies as Activities for Morning Meeting
One of the best ideas for morning meeting that I discovered was incorporating vocabulary teaching strategies. I start my activities for morning meeting with introducing our weekly theme and our vocabulary words for science or social studies. This is all part of my thematic approach to teaching. We start with a citizenship theme and all the words work together to form our classroom culture. I use these words all year long and it really helps positively reinforce behavior.
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I display these word wall cards and begin the unit by doing a pair sharing. Students turn and talk to each other about how all the words relate to one another, and then we discuss the theme as a group.
For more vocabulary expansion, I read our book on citizenship that includes all these words that we will be discussing all week. We also sing the song because music is very important to my students’ social emotional learning, and it helps them to remember the words and concepts.
As educators, we want to appropriately challenge each student—encouraging higher-order thinking while meeting state standards. Music is one tool to engage each student and provide a pathway for connections and deeper understanding.(EduTopia)
I like to make a poster with the words, so students can see the words as they sing, and so they can highlight the word of the day today. This is a poster I made of our Back to School Song. Each day we sing the song and a student will find and highlight the word that we focus on for that day.
5. Phonics Instructions That Build Your Classroom Culture
Yes I’m aware that headline sounds super weird. How could phonics and classroom culture be linked? Well, this is a perfect example of how your classroom culture is more than behavior management. Classroom culture is the world you and your students create within your four walls. When you use every moment as a positive learning opportunity, you create a world where students can learn and want to learn.
Here’s how to do it:
I focus on one of the words like “attitude” and we look at word features such as “at.” This has been one of the best strategies when reading for my children because they learn daily phonics and how to break down parts of words. I use this as an introduction to reading skills and a way to reinforce content area literacy.
My students see how to use these word features or phonics to sound out words in a very organic way. It’s something you can do every day and they have a blast with it! I make sure that I make a really big deal about the “word of the day” and I call them my little word detectives or word scientists. Students learn the phonics rules in a genuine way because we do this daily and they see these phonics features over and over. I have seen my students’ phonics skills improve dramatically by adding these quick literacy elements to my morning meeting activities.
So, to review the components that help set classroom culture and make my morning meeting successful:
- Everyone is greeted by name
- Everyone gets to share
- Get your students moving
- Make them think
- Use vocabulary and phonics
Try some or all of these morning meeting activities and comment what you do that has proven successful.
Share this post with your friends and have a great first day back!