A positive and caring classroom can make everyone happy and want to try their best! Imagine if, in a classroom, students refuse to help each other, give up easily, ignore the trash on the floor, and complain about the work they are supposed to do, etc. What would you feel? Would you be looking forward to entering the classroom every morning? Of course not. Neither do our students.
Creating a positive and caring classroom atmosphere is what every teacher needs, and it doesn’t happen automatically. Teachers need to be proactive to make it happen.
This post will share three simple activities to promote a positive and caring classroom in the first week of school or during social-emotional learning time.
1. Respecting Each Other’s Values
First and foremost, everyone has values, even little kids. A value is a personal belief or feeling that something is important. Personal values are important to everyone. For example, some people value good scores while others value the process; some value spending time with family while others value having fun with friends.
However, the values of our kids are sometimes neglected or not recognized in our classroom. In fact, knowing and respecting everyone’s values is essential in creating a positive and caring classroom.
If you ask your students the question, “What are values?” You may see some clueless faces or hear some interesting answers. Share your values with your students first, and provide them with more examples to help.
So ask that question to start this activity. Next, get a chart paper, write the word “values” nice and tall in the middle or on the top, and then record students’ answers while they are sharing.
After that, give students a worksheet with many values on it. Tell them to choose their top three values, and answer some questions such as, “Which value is most important to you?” “Why is it the most important one?” “Do you think your parents would choose that one too? Why or why not?” “Which value is most important to your best friend?”
Have a class discussion about the values after students are done with their worksheets. Stress that everyone’s values are important, and we need to respect everyone’s values in this classroom.
2. Giving Compliments
The next activity is giving compliments. It’s simple but powerful, and I am sure everyone knows how to do that. However, not many people give compliments when they are busy, and not many people strongly believe in the power of compliments, so sometimes they don’t bother to do that.
In fact, compliments are like magic words that can brighten one’s sky. A simple phrase like “Good job!” can make your students feel confident in themselves and more motivated to work hard and try their best.
How to do this activity? First, ask everyone to sit in a circle. Then, you will start by complimenting someone. For example, “David, I really like how you help Max pick up his supplies on the floor today!” Try to make it specific if you can, so your students will know that you are paying close attention to them and you care about everything they do in the classroom.
You don’t need any worksheets for this activity, but you can help your students and facilitate the conversation by providing them some sentence starters.
Next, David should say, “Thank you,” and you will respond by saying, “You’re welcome”. After that, David can move on to compliment another student in this class. Continue this activity until everyone has given and received a compliment.
Last but not least, you may ask some students to share how they feel when they receive or give a compliment. Also, please encourage students to keep doing this every day to make the classroom a better place.
3. Accepting Differences
Everyone is different but the same in some ways. Accepting or tolerating the ways other people are different from you is necessary if you want to get along with people. There are great differences among the people on earth, such as different cultures, ethnicities, languages, etc. If everyone is tolerant of differences among people, there won’t be prejudice or stereotypes, and we can all live happily.
A great book to read aloud for this activity is called “We’re Different, we’re the same” by Bobbi Kates. In this book, the author points out many things we are different but the same. For example, our noses are different because they look very different. However, our noses are the same because their functions are the same.
After the read-aloud, divide the students into pairs. In each pair, ask students to sit face-to-face, and then draw each other’s face and hair on a piece of paper. When both students are done, ask them to think about and find three differences and three similarities between them. Record their observation on a piece of paper.
When the whole class is done, bring the class back and ask students to share the differences and similarities they have identified. Tell students that it’s common to see differences between you and other people, so everyone needs to accept the differences and respect each other’s identity.
In conclusion, these three activities are very simple and easy to prepare, but they can make a big difference in your classroom. Try them in the first week of school, every Friday, or during social-emotional learning time to ensure a positive and caring classroom.
Want to know more? Join me on Instagram @eurekasheets! I share lots of teaching ideas and tips there.
Have fun with your students,