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Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Top 5 Strategies to Foster Positive Classroom Climate

In working towards fostering positive interactions and creating a productive learning environment for our students, there are fundamentally two different categories of strategies we use as teachers: those interacting with the class as a whole and those working with individual students. This is what we like to call "behavior management", right? With such limited class time and so many students to work with, the strategies we use to interact with each class as a whole are very important to fostering a positive classroom climate in the music room. Here are the things I do that I think make the biggest difference in my classes.

Before I get into my list, I want to make one important point: fostering a positive classroom environment is not synonymous with me, the teacher, getting what I want. A lot of talk around behavior management centers around getting kids to do what we want, but that's not the ultimate goal here- the goal is for students to be successful, in every sense of the word, in our classrooms. That won't always mean students doing what they're told, but it means everyone is interacting with each other in positive ways and building each other up constructively.

1. Consistent Feedback, Working Towards Goals

Yes, getting away from the extrinsic "carrots and sticks" and focusing on fostering intrinsic motivation is the ultimate goal. But 1) we all need things to look forward to when we need extra motivation to work hard, 2) we as teachers need concrete systems to remind ourselves to provide consistent feedback and positive reinforcement, and 3) it's important to build teamwork in music. So I think having a "behavior management" system for the class as a whole, that gives classes positive reinforcement for hard work and reminders when the class gets off track without pitting classes against each other in a competition or race, is helpful and important. Click on the picture above to read about the system I use in my classes.

2. Seating Arrangement

I spend a lot of time and mental energy deciding on my seating chart for each class at the beginning of the year, and when group dynamics are off, it's one of the first things I look at. How close students are to other specific personalities, who is in each person's line of sight, how well they can see the teacher and class visuals, whether they're surrounded by other people or have more physical space around them, and so many other factors can play a huge role in how students feel and how they interact with each other in the classroom!

3. Systems of Teamwork and Leadership

Students need to feel a sense of ownership in the running of the classroom to feel that they belong, and they need to practice working with others and taking leadership in the class as a whole. Color teams, which I use for classroom jobs, supplies, seating, and more, provide an easy, concrete, and fun way to address all of those needs.

4. Ongoing Work Towards Equity

None of the above matters unless the identities and needs of all students are equitably represented in how we run our classrooms. 

5. Responding to Difficult Group Dynamics

Some groups just have a much harder time clicking, whether they have an overall negative dynamic, are very needy and attention seeking (relationship seeking), or are scattered and high energy. I have found some specific strategies in those situations that can help when dealing with more difficult group dynamics. 

Those are my top 5 strategies for fostering a positive classroom climate in the music room! Establishing a positive environment and managing group dynamics is so important, especially in the beginning of the year, for making sure students can be successful. And in a year like this one as we deal with the ongoing effects of the pandemic and distance learning, this has never been more important or as challenging! I hope these ideas are helpful as you work with your students this year.

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