Building a Positive Classroom Community

Hey everyone! It's Anna from Hanging with Mrs. Hulsey!

The school year is officially in full swing-- and my students are definitely feeling more comfortable with me and each other! One thing I've decided we need to focus on more is our classroom community! Here are some quick ideas to help you promote a positive climate in your classroom!

Use Team Builders
Team building activities are easy to implement! They don't take a lot of time, students find them to be engaging, and they are often FREE! Here is a quick list of some of my favorite student team building activities:

  • Human Knot (Students stand in circle, reach for hands of people across the way, and then they must untangle themselves without letting go. This can also be done as a spiderweb using a ball of yarn)
  • Tallest Tower (Divide students into groups and give them supplies like straws, tape, blocks, etc. The team that can make the tallest tower wins!)
  • Minefield (Set up a "minefield" that students must navigate a blindfolded partner through)
  • Hula Hoop Pass (Can be played whole class or in teams. Students hold hands and must pass through a hula hoop as quickly as possible)
  • Switch Sides If... (Use a chalk line, rope, or tape line. Have students stand on one side of the line. Read off items like "switch sides if you like to bake", etc.)
The internet provides an infinite source of team building activities! I've included a few links below:

Hold Morning Meetings
Time is precious in my classroom because we departmentalize. It feels like we are always on the go. However, I feel that even something as small as a weekly morning meeting would help my students develop a more positive feeling toward one another. You can read more about morning meetings for older elementary students here! I also love this product from TPT!

Write Daily White Board Messages
I think this is a such a simple way to start the day off with a positive vibe! The night before (or morning of) write a simple prompt on the white board/chalkboard and have students respond on the board. This will foster another sense of ownership and community. You can find white board messages by searching google or Pinterest! Here are some quick ideas to get you started:

  • 1 Thing Wednesday-- name one thing we've done this year that you'd like to do again!
  • I Think I Can Thursday-- what is one goal you want to achieve this year?
  • Flashback Friday-- what is one new thing you have learned this week?
  • Write a compliment for a classmate by their name (no repeats!)
  • Name 3 traits of a great friend
  • What is your favorite book you've read this year?
  • Thankful Thursday-- what is 1 thing you are thankful for?
  • Make it Monday-- what is 1 thing you've always wanted to create?'
  • Top 2 Tuesday-- write your top 2 favorite things about the school year so far
Compliment Circles
This activity would pair well with morning meetings! You and the students sit in a circle with everyone's legs out straight. Begin the compliment circle by giving a compliment to someone. Once someone has been complimented they cross their legs. Compliments continue until everyone has received 1. I think this is a great way to encourage students to see each other in different ways! 

Create a Kindness Board
I created this one for the visual it would provide to my students. Plus, I wanted them to point out kindness when they see it in others! This one is easy to implement:

1. Print out the letters and hang on a wall or bulletin board.
2. Print the "caught being kind" strips on various colors of paper (I used Astrobright paper). 
3. Cut the strips apart and keep on hand for when students catch others being kind.
4. When students experience a kindness or act of friendship, they come and ask you for a "caught being kind" strip. They write down their experience. 
5. Start a paper chain and add a new link every time someone catches others being kind! 
You can find this HERE in my TPT store! 

Here is another type of board with a similar theme (kindness):
You can find these fall themed board HERE in my store!

I hope you found these ideas to be useful to implement in your classroom! If you have any questions-- feel free to leave them in the comment section! 

Implementing Growth Mindset in Your Classroom Today

Growth Mindset is a phrase that was coined by Dr. Dweck.  In simple terms, having a growth mindset is the belief that you can become smarter through hard work and perseverance. "When students believe they can get smarter, they understand that effort makes them stronger.  Therefore they put in extra time and effort, and that leads to higher achievement."  (Mindset Works)

Teaching is tough and to think that we now need to add one more "thing" to teach can be daunting, but teaching growth mindset isn't a lesson; it is part of every lesson.  If we can help our students gain a growth mindset, we are helping them tackle those tough standardized tests, equivalent fractions (eeeks), the standards, and all that jazz.  So you are thinking.....great, this sounds wonderful....but how?  Over the last few years, I have incorporated several ideas.  I hope you can use a few in your room.

Class Dojo Videos
Whether you use ClassDojo in the classroom or not as a classroom management tool, you NEED these videos in your life!  I have shown this particular set of videos for 3 years now and they help foster some amazing discussions!  Each video is just about 5 minutes long and I show them one per day after my students come in all hot and sweaty (ew) from recess.  It is the perfect length to allow them to cool down, calm down and get refocused.  The first few videos are titled "Your Brain is like a Muscle," "The Magic of Mistakes" and my favorite, "The incredible Power of Yet."  You can find this particular ClassDojo Growth Mindset video series here.  While we watch the video, I jot down a question or two for a short discussion.

Use discussion as a spring board
I find as many opportunities during the rest of the day to reinforce the question we discussed during all our lessons.  In the second video above, Mojo (the main character) learns about the "Magic of Mistakes."  After each video their is a discussion question.  After our initial discussion, I try to reinforce our thoughts throughout the day/week.  In this particular video the discussion at the end is that "mistakes make us stronger."  I try to model this as often as possible.  When I lose my Smartboard remote, I point it out and talk about how I should always put it in the "special spot" I have for my remote.  I make a point to talk about this outloud everytime I put my remote away and how when I lost it earlier, I learned from my mistakes.  When one of the students make a mistake (and they personally make it audible or visible to the class) I try to ask them what they learned from their mistake.  If they can't think of anything, I pose the question to the class.  I usually get responses like, "Now, we know the answer isn't __." or "Next time we will go back and check before ...."  Although I would never point out someone's mistake purposely, I have plenty of opportunity because my students tend to blurt out when they make a mistake.

Use past experiences
One of the discussions we always have is one of past experiences at home and school.  We talk about how when they were a toddler, they didn't know all their ABCs and how to read, but now they do! This helps them understand that our minds can grow.  Another experience that most have had is bike riding.  We talk about how they grow from tricycles, to training wheels, to no training wheels but falling a lot, and then finally riding on their own.  This helps them see that learning is a process.  Sometimes it takes many steps and sometimes many failures before you can succeed.

I simply love this video of this squirrel faced with a challenge to remind my students it will take several tries and attempts to learn something, and then we don't exactly master it the first time either!  What a great cool down video as they are coming back from recess. 

Change your "talk"
Discuss with your students how their "talk" can be positive or negative.  When we speak to ourselves with a positive attitude, we are more likely to be able to tackle harder tasks.  I love this anchor chart from Janna Finch on Twitter.

The Power of Yet
We can also take our negative talk and turn it into  something positive with "The Power of Yet."  When I catch my students saying a negative statement, "I don't know how to do this." I add YET! at the end and repeat it, "I don't know how to do this YET!"  It doesn't take long for my students to catch on and start adding YET to each others' sentences.  It's a lovely thing!  We are now changing our talk and turning a positive into a negative.  I love having this Growth Mindset bulletin board display up in my classroom for my students to be reminded daily, and it is also an easy reference for me now because rather than saying anything outloud, I can just point.  (Saving my teacher voice!  Woor woot!)  One teacher said, "I love this and I am surprised at how often my kiddos refer back to it!  Fantastic!"  

Use data as proof 
You can use any lesson (spelling, reading rate, even a writing sample) as the proof that your students can have a growth mindset.  I like using math facts as my proof just due to the fact that it is quick and easy proof.  I test my students on their multiplication facts the first week of school.  I of course do not take a grade and they actually check the paper themselves.  This information is for them.  They get very upset thinking that they "don't know" all the answers and that they are going to fail 3rd grade, but I have them paste it into their own data binders and have them keep their work sample.  This helps them understand that the information is for them and not me!  After we begin practicing some of their multiplication facts, we test our knowledge again in a few weeks.  I don't test them often throughout the year, but I do test them at least 5 times during the year so they can see their progress.

Seeing themselves as learners that can grow is the whole point of this data.  It isn't for me (although I do love seeing what they have accomplished).  After each testing session, I have them go back to their previous tests to compare.  Then we discuss how our minds have grown and how we may not know all the answers YET, but someday we will.  The students see how they didn't know many of the answers (YET) at the beginning of the year, but now they are learning more and more.

The Growth Mindset Power of Yet bulletin board display is available on TpT.