Can We Create a Positive Learning Environment? Positively!
By Karen Jordan
6.Multiple Choice Quiz
Why do children in today's classroom like or dislike school? How can a child have confidence in his ability to learn? What motivates a child to learn? An enthusiastic teacher can create a positive learning environment that will give a child a positive attitude toward school. He will be motivated by interesting learning experiences and strive to meet his potential because there is an enthusiastic teacher that sees the value of his contribution to the classroom family. The teacher is the thermostat that will control the classroom climate. The elements of a well-planned physical structure, effective behavior management and the caring teacher will blend together and create a positive learning environment.
According to Konza, Grainer & Bradshaw (2001) in their book, Classroom Management: A Survival Guide explains that the physical environment within a classroom is an indicator of your expectations as a teacher. Before the school year begins, the foundation for the class must be established by the physical arrangement of the classroom. The first step in establishing conditions for learning and preventing behavior problems is to create an orderly setting. “The physical environment can influence the way teachers and students feel, think and behave.” (Stewart, Evans, and Kacyzynski, Winter 1997, p. 53). A classroom that has an aesthetic appearance and is well organized can have a positive effect on student behavior, allowing for more frequent and quality teacher-student interactions without excessive noise or disruptions. (Stewart, Evans, and Kacyzynski, Winter 1997, p. 53).
The first thought in arranging the classroom is to make sure the teacher's desk is located with a bird's eye view of the classroom. The desks should be arranged to promote learning, and consideration should be given to the inclusive classroom. Analyze the specific activities you will incorporate in your lessons and design areas for this purpose, and when possible allow students to help decorate these areas. Designate an area of the classroom to display the student's work. All age groups like to see their work displayed. (Stewart, Evans, and Kacyzynski, Winter 1997, p. 53). Other options for classroom decor are to creatively post classroom rules, the students assignments and emphasize a new unit or new skills. Bulletin boards are another key area for decoration. They should be should not be cluttered, but attractive, and changed frequently. Plants are another means to make the classroom environment aesthetically pleasing. (Nevin, Knoblock, 2005 p.19).
Chris Johnson has stated that the Chicago Fire Department spends 80% of their budget on the prevention of fires. They spend less than 20% of the remaining budget putting out the fires. Prevention is the key to a controlled classroom environment (Meyers, 2007, p. 22). From the very beginning of school, the teacher needs to establish the leadership roll.(Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996, p. 124.). Start by setting up the routines the first month of school. Get to know the students—who they are, their interests, and what kind of learning experiences are motivating to them (Meyers, 2007, p. 22).
From the very beginning, the teacher must establish what she expects from the students. “Rules: This is your opportunity to set yourself up for a year of happiness, or a year of grief-the decision is yours” (Meyers, 2007, p. 22). The rules should be brief and specific, presented in a positive manner, and limited to five or six important rules (Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996,.p. 124). They should not be just listed and recited; instead, create a special assignment for each of the important rules you want to emphasize . Build “student ownership and include students voices and input. Finish the lesson with a follow-up that encourages students to think about, discuss and reflect upon the need for the rule in their classroom (Meyers, 2007, p. 22)”. Once the rules are established and understood, it is crucial that the consequences are enforced consistently (Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996,.p. 124).
Classroom behavior is also directly related to the teacher's structure of the class. Effective classroom managers are aware of what is taking place in the class and maintain student involvement (Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996, p. 124). The attention of the students is increased by repeatedly giving clear instructions and keeping the pace of the instruction moving as rapidly as the class is capable. Appropriate assignments, feedback and making smooth transitions between subjects will help the students be more attentive during class. Another element that is crucial to the structure of the classroom is positive reinforcement. Given consistently, students are motivated to choose appropriate behavior. Wise choices for positive reinforcement would be positive notes and phone calls to parents, rewards, extra privileges and meaningful praise (Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996,.p. 124). A teacher that is effective in creating a positive learning environment will “act more than react.” Meadows, Melloy, Yell, 1996, p.124).
The student that creates behavior challenges for the teacher can pose problems within a positive environment, since it does not solve all problems. In my own experience, I have had a difficult child that was diagnosed ADHD and oppositionally defiant. This was only the beginning of the student's symptoms. The child was a first grader and yet could not remain in his seat or sit quietly. It was not unusual for the child to be redirected to his seat 50 times in a single day. I decided to try giving this student freedom to move as he needed by creating a large boxed area with tape and giving him two desks approximately six feet apart within that space. He has freedom to move around as he needs, but he MUST stay within his box. To help with his talking out, his voice must remain in the box as well. I provided the student with his own trash can, water bottle, pencil sharpener, and extra puzzles to occupy him during transitional times in class. This has proven to be highly effective for this student, reducing the number of redirections to his seat to approximately eight times, but what works for one may not work for another. The point is that a teacher needs to be creative in an inclusive classroom.
It is the teacher who establishes the climate for the classroom. An enthusiastic teacher can supply motivation for students in a positive learning environment. “Stimulating teaching has been described as entertaining, motivating, interesting, and thought-provoking (Nevin, Knoblock, 2005 p.19).” A teacher's attitude affects how children perceive school. She should have high expectations of their students and believe they are all capable of learning (Stewart, Evans, and Kacyzynski, Winter 1997, p. 53).
Enthusiastically Create a Positive Learning Environment and Build a Positive Relationship with Students (Nevin and Knoblock, 2005, p. 18)
Smile, laugh, show emotion, and a passion for learning. Greet students personally. Engage students in activities will ask them to share their personal experiences. Switch tasks to frequently and encourage more experiential styles of learning in class. Acknowledge positive behavior and use language that is positive. Avoid embarrassing the students. Keep good eye contact and use humor. .
Every child has a need for acceptance and therefore the teacher needs to have a good relationship with each of the students. A teacher that focuses on the individual needs of each of the students will enthusiastically adapt the instruction to the various learning styles and at the same time make special provisions for diversity (Stewart, Evans, and Kacyzynski, Winter 1997, p. 53).
A positive learning environment in the classroom is possible with an enthusiastic teacher that builds a personal relationship with the students. Preparation must begin before the first day of class. The foundation needs to be laid from the beginning with the establishment of the rules that are consistently enforced throughout the remainder of the year. The teacher must be structured, conscientious and vary the lessons according to interest, learning styles and diversity. The enthusiastic teacher that has created a positive learning environment has a classroom that is motivated to learn.
1.The key to a controlled classroom environment is:
A. An aesthetically appealing classroom
C. Negative Reinforcement
2.The ______________ establishes the climate for the classroom.
3. An effective classroom manager is aware of what is taking place in the classroom and will
A. Maintain student involvement.
B. Have mirrors strategically placed.
C. Place the desk in the front of the classroom.
4.One way to instruct the students of the classroom rules is to:
A. Write the rules 10x each.
B. A group classroom project.
C. Recite the rules daily for a week.
5.A(n)_____________ can supply motivation for the students:
A. treasure box
B. enthusiastic teacher
C. firm discipline system
Answers: 1. A, 2. C, 3. C, 4. B, 5. B
Konza, Grainger, and Bradshaw. (2001). Classroom Management—A Survival Guide .
Meadows, Melloy, and Yell. (1996). Behavior Management as a Curriculum for Students with
Emotional Disorders. Preventing School Failure, v40 pp. 124-130.
Meyers, J. (2007). Creating A Positive Classroom Environment. Etfo Voice, pp. 22-23.
Nevin, N. A., Knoblock, N. A., (2005, Jan-Feb). Is Your Classroom the Happenin' Place to
Be? The Agricultural Education Magazine, pp17-19.
Stewart, S. C., Evans, W. H., Kacyzynski, D. J., (Winter1997). Setting the Stage for Success:
Assessing the Instructional Environment. Preventing School Failure, v. 41, pp 53-56.