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Classroom Management: 6 Easy Ways to Create a Caring Environment

Laura Candler, TeachHUB Blogger

 

Creating a Caring ClassroomI’m excited to become a part of the TeachHUB blogging team! When I was asked to select a theme for my articles, it didn’t take long to settle on “Active Engagement Made Easy.” As most teachers would agree, learning should be an active process, but it’s not always easy. Without a decent game plan employing classroom management, active lessons can quickly disintegrate into classroom chaos.

My job will be to offer tips and strategies for how you can sneak a little activity into your lessons without losing your sanity in the process.

Encouraging Active Engagement

So what is “active engagement?” Most of us think of “hands-on” instruction or activities that include movement; however, active engagement should go well beyond physical engagement. In fact, I’ve discovered that kids can be physically engaged without becoming mentally engaged in learning. Clearly, active engagement should involve both hands and minds.

In addition, most would agree that such lessons frequently involve interaction with a partner or team. Talking over ideas, solving problems together, and seeing other points of view are all important in the active learning process. So in order to experience success together, students must also learn to care for each other and treat each other with respect. In short, they have to engage their hearts as well as their hands and minds.

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In light of this view of active engagement, it’s clear that our first steps should involve classroom management like creating a caring classroom environment where active learning can flourish. The best classrooms offer a loving and supportive atmosphere while at the same time setting clear limits for behavior.

How can we accomplish this? Here are some ideas to get you started!

6 Ways to Create a Caring Classroom Environment

Establish clear procedures and expectations for your students.

Spend whatever time it takes at the beginning of the year to teach your students what you expect in terms of academics and behavior. Let them know that unkind words and actions will not be tolerated, and put a stop to any form of bullying right from the start. Nip it in the bud, as the saying goes!

Teach your students a quiet signal and use it consistently.

Whether it’s a bell, a clapping pattern, a hand in the air, or a rain stick, use your quiet signal every time you need their attention. Just as importantly, be sure students are quiet and focused before you give directions or address them as a group.

Implement an effective classroom management system.

The Stoplight Management System is my favorite, and I used it almost exclusively for over 10 years.
To implement it, I posted a large poster of a stoplight prominently on a bulletin board and surrounded it with numbered library book pockets. One pocket contained narrow slips of red, yellow, orange and green paper. (Yes, orange, too! We needed one more color to make it work.) Everyone started out the day with a green slip in their numbered pocket, but if they were off-task or bothering someone, a yellow slip was added to their pocket as a warning. Adding an orange slip meant a consequence such as a note home to parents, and a red slip meant an immediate phone call or a time-out in another classroom. This system was both simple and effective.

Teach social skills explicitly.

If your students don’t know how to get along with each other, teach them how!

6 Easy Ways to Create a Caring ClassroomObserve them as they are interacting with each other and figure out which skills they need to improve. Maybe they don’t know how to compliment and praise each other, or they don’t know how to share materials in a team.

Create a large T-chart on paper or an interactive white board and title it “Working Together Skills.” At the top of the chart, write the name of the focus skill such as Praising. Then title the two columns “Looks Like” and “Sounds Like.” Ask your students, “What does it look like and sound like when you praise someone? What do you do and what do you say?” Then add their ideas to the chart. Next, involve them in a cooperative learning lesson and prompt them to praise each other throughout the activity. Try teaching a new skill each Monday and leaving the poster visible throughout the week.

For more details about how to teach social skills, visit the Social Skills page on my Teaching Resources website.

Introduce partner activities before team activities.

If your students don’t have experience working in teams, start with simple partner activities. When kids work with just one other person, it’s much easier for them to share, take turns, and stay on task.
Always choose the partners yourself in advance. As easy way to do this is to write their names on index cards, sort them into pairs, and clip the sets together with a paper clip. Simple partner activities include taking turns on a worksheet, playing a game, or discussing a set of question cards.

Use icebreakers before having students work together on academic tasks.

6 Easy Ways to Create a Caring ClassroomSome students need to warm up to a partner or group before they are ready for academic teamwork. A simple way to do this is with a Buddy Venn diagram.

To do this, pair students ask one partner to draw a large Venn diagram on a sheet of paper. Then have each person write his or her name above one circle as shown in the example. Then ask them to take turns stating details about themselves such as their favorite foods, pets they own, places they’ve been, and books they like. As each person calls out one detail, he or she checks to see if it’s something that’s true for both of them and then places it on the Venn diagram accordingly.

These types of activities help kids become more comfortable with each other so that when they have to work on an academic task together, they are more understanding and tolerant when the task becomes challenging. Just 5 minutes spent on team-builders can make a world of difference later!
 

To learn more strategies for engaging hearts as well as hands and minds, please visit my Creating a Caring Classroom page on the Teaching Resources website.

 

What are your favorite classroom management strategies for creating a caring environment? Share in the comments section!