Skip to main content

Establishing a Successful Classroom

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

In both general education and special needs classrooms, the beginning of the school year is an important time for both students and teachers. This is a time to settle into new routines, as well as to create the basis of meaningful relationships with one another. A classroom is a learning community, and teachers should take care to design their classrooms with this idea in mind. Classrooms with a strong focus on community-mindedness and positive student-student and teacher-student relationships set the stage for a productive and positive school year.

When healthy relationships, safe ground rules, and positivity function as foundational elements of academic development, teachers are able to integrate the social emotional aspects of learning. Teachers earning their Master of Education in Special Education degrees will participate in coursework that will promote school classroom design that encourages positive relationships and routines.

Agree on Ground Rules

At the beginning of the year, many teachers spend time with their students creating a list of ground rules for the classroom. One of the most fundamental rules for any healthy classroom is to keep the space safe for everyone. Bullying has become a major issue in schools; it interferes tremendously with a student’s ability to thrive academically. If students do not feel safe in their own classrooms, they are less able to maintain concentration, focus on curriculum or develop positive social emotional skills. Asking students to add other classroom rules encourages positive participation in the development of a safe space. When teachers spend class time creating a set of ground rules, they are prioritizing the social emotional aspects of learning.

Set Daily Routines

Routines are important to a child's development. At home, a child may have responsibilities like completing a set of chores or washing his or her plate after eating dinner. Responsibilities like these are also important within a classroom setting. When students participate in simple routines throughout the day–such as moving chairs for circle time, putting away art supplies or beginning the day with a particular song-they learn what to expect and to take ownership of their school day experience. This is an important aspect of helping a child develop responsibility, as well as the feeling of belonging to a group or a space.

Provide Ample Time for Personal Connections

Some teachers enjoy beginning the week with report-backs from the weekend, during which students share the highlights of their time away from school. This allows students to connect with each other on a personal level and brings fun into the classroom. Breaking students into small groups or pairs to brainstorm, complete exercises or share stories about their lives enables friendships to develop.

Insist on a Positive Atmosphere

Positivity is contagious. When classrooms are anchored in positive language and upbeat attitudes, students feel safer, and they can to build stronger relationships with their peers and teachers. As a teacher, you can reinforce positive behavior and language, and encourage students to make changes when you see them engaging in negative behaviors. Choosing to model a positive attitude in the classroom contributes to positive social emotional learning dynamics.

Focus on Classroom Design

Many teachers spend the weeks before school starts creating an inviting, colorful and calm classroom space. This is important for many reasons. When teachers prioritize school classroom design that supports each student’s individual needs, as well as the needs of the greater group, students feel more centered.

A classroom is a learning community. Students need ample opportunities to connect positively with one another through learning, and they should be able to contribute to the ground rules at the beginning of the year. A classroom should feel safe and inclusive to each student, and a culture of positivity and respect should drive all learning opportunities. When teachers focus on the social emotional aspects of learning, as well as school classroom design that supports cooperation and positive relationships between students, students learn healthy habits and routines that pave the way for a rewarding school year.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online M.Ed. in Special Education program.


Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.