Teaching Strategies

A Positive Classroom

Teachers have a very long list of responsibilities, including helping their students to feel positive about themselves. There are simple things a teacher can do to affirm the students in their class which can make a huge impact on each student.

  • When speaking to your students, use their name.
  • Always greet your students and show that you are happy to see them.
  • Make your students feel important.
  • Admit that you make mistakes, accept their mistakes and allow for an unlimited amount of fresh starts.
  • Avoid labelling your students.
  • Praise, praise praise! Both verbal and written, students love praise and it encourages them to complete work to the best of their ability. From K to year 6, praise makes a world of difference. Focus your praise particiularly when students have had a go and when they have produced their best work.
    • Brilliant work!
    • Excellent work!
    • Clever answer!
    • You should be proud of yourself!
    • I enjoyed reading that!
    • Your work is always a pleasure to read.
    • Fantastic improvement!
    • I can see the effort you put into this!
    • That’s a great effort!
  • Praise equally – try not to leave any student out. Find something each student does well and let them know!
  • At the end of each day, praise the class as a whole.
  • Always speak optimistically to the students.
    • ‘Don’t use such long sentences’ vs. ‘Good try. Try to add more full stops and new sentences next time’.
    • ‘No’ vs. ‘try again’/’good try’.
  • Always speak politely.
  • Avoid favouritism and avoid discrimination.
    • This may be unintentional and overlooked.
    • Give students a small piece of paper each and ask them to write their name on it and tally each time you ask them for an answer to a question and/or compliment them. At the end of the week you can see if your attention was divided equally among the class and if any students were left out. This allows you to self-reflect.
  • Never give up on a student.
  • Smile at the students.
  • Accept every contribution and answer.
    • Acknowledge that the student had a go by saying ‘good try’, ‘try again’ or ‘close”. After all, it’s tough putting yourself out there and sharing an answer!

How do you keep your classroom positive?

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

9 thoughts on “A Positive Classroom

  1. Interesting article. For me, it brings up some of the questions around praise and expectations that I now have as a result of reading these articles recently: http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/ and
    http://www.teachpreschool.org/2011/07/painting-with-the-eric-violette-and-a-preschooler/. I am keen to explore these ideas further when I return to the classroom.

    Your post highlights just how important it is to build a relationship with your students – that’s the most effective way of creative a positive culture in your classroom. In my second year of teaching, I taught a semester-long Year 9 Biology class. In the first semester, I went in, we created the class rules, and I launched into teaching. That semester was my worst semester of teaching – I spent every Saturday looking in the jobs section of the local paper because I didn’t want to teach anymore. However, I stuck it out, and in second semester (when I repeated the class with a new group of Year 9s), I was determined not to repeat my mistake. So I didn’t teach any content for the first week of the class, and instead I spent time on activities that would let me get to know the students and let the students get to know each other (it was a big school and there were 250 students in Year 9, so they didn’t know each other well). I’m pleased to say that semester was much better for me (and I’m still in education today!).


    1. Hi Natasha,

      Thank you for sharing those articles. The first one definitely outlines that praise needs to be carefully considered, just like everything else. It makes a good point that teachers need to be weary of providing praise when it may not be necessary. I believe teachers should focus praise on when students have made a great effort and have had a go rather than praising students for completing something they already knew how to do well. It really is important to build a great relationship with our students and to ensure we are encouraging them to reach their potential. I admire the fact that you took the time to self reflect and do something different! Well done and I’m glad you stuck it out!



  2. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I strongly agree with the “smile” and “always speak politely” bullets and enjoyed reading and learning from the entire post. I would add “Always greet students and show you’re happy to see them” to help create and maintain a positive classroom atmosphere where students feel welcome and safe.


    1. Hi Nadjib,

      Thank you for such a nice comment. I’m really glad to hear you liked it! I definitely like that point and I think it is so simple and yet really important, I’ll add it to the list!



  3. I am delighted to see that you thought about blogging on the relationships within a classroom (I found very few blog posts on this issue).
    I agree with most of what you have written although I have two personal takes:
    1. I don’t find it a ‘responsibility” to create a positive classroom – it is in my DNA 🙂 I can’t teach in a negative environment by nature – I like smiling a lot!
    2. I avoid using adjectives that semantically address qualities of students (e.g. “clever” work). The word is exclusively related to the IQ/intelligence level and, although it might be used with good intent, it might convey a message that is not desirable. Because from the abstract context (“work”) kids immediately pick it up and assert it to their own personality. So words like “smart”, “clever”, “intelligent” (answer/work) should be deleted from our vocabulary.
    3. I do praise students but I am always aware not to overdo it. Praise in excess can lead to external motivation – that is, the students will try to please the teacher and get praised as often as possible. Balance is needed so we don’t get to the other end of the spectrum. 🙂
    Good post!


    1. Hi Christina,

      It’s interesting that there are few blog posts on the relationships within a classroom. If you have any suggestions for future blog posts that you would be interested in or there is a lack of, please let me know.

      I like your point about it being in your DNA! I can’t imagine not smiling and being positive either, and because of that it is easy to forget that it doesn’t come so easy to others.

      That’s a good point about eliminating the use of words that address the qualities of students. I will keep that in mind. What words do you use?

      That’s a deifnitely a good point about not over praising. Finding the right balance is key.

      Thanks for your personal take, it’s always welcome.



  4. Hi again Ashley,
    I use words that relate directly to he task – such as “yours is a complex approach to …” , “interesting take you took on..”, “tell me more about…because I enjoyed how you did so far” (my feedback comes along these lines). I avoid hyperbole – it somewhat feels artificial – and don’t worry, my students are motivated :).
    As far as suggestions for future blog posts are concerned – I don’t really have any nor would I give . You are a reflective and passionate teacher-to-be and I enjoyed reading all your posts!
    However, what I would like to see discussed and exemplified in the teaching blogging community would be critical thinking, emotional development, integration of various assessment formats , how students can be involved in the local community as well (not only developing tech-mediated relations on the international arena).. don’t know, more issues that we confront with in teaching (not only technology).


    1. Wow, I really like that approach. I will definitely aspire to write more comments like that in the future.

      A focus on the issues withnin teaching is a good point. Thanks for your insight, Christina.


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