Six Tips for Maintaining a Happy Classroom

Six Tips for Maintaining a Happy Classroom

A happy classroom is every teacher’s goal. You want your students to be engaged in your lessons and connected to you and each other, fostering a thriving learning environment where curious minds can explore, and mutual respect can grow. But if your classroom is feeling chaotic or negative at times, how do you turn things around to create (and maintain) a happy and calm classroom where everyone is both emotionally nurtured and intellectually engaged?

1.    Be prepared

It’s crucial to get organised before the school year starts and before the beginning of each class, so that through setting clear expectations and providing structure, you can promote a stable and secure environment where students can thrive.

Rochelle, a primary teacher in Victoria, ensures that she sets the tone from day one, with student input, so that the kids are more onboard with classroom rules. She says, “These clear expectations and routines support all students to be successful, which helps to create a happy classroom environment.”

Rochelle believes that by involving students in designing the classroom that students “feel a sense of belonging in the classroom.” As an example, she says, “This year my students helped to design and organise the classroom library in a way that they would like – we [now] have a ‘Reading Garden’, which they love!”

2.    Have regular check-ins

Regular check-ins are a crucial way to gauge where your class is at emotionally and socially. There are a lot of things that children, especially shy ones, won’t talk about unless prompted. We know you want to be a teacher that catches things early, nips issues in the bud and provides unparalleled support to your students, so a quick five-minute check-in once a week or so can be an effective way to assess how your students are feeling about their learning progress, their social life, and other crucial areas like mental health.

Rochelle from Victoria thinks this check-in process is most effective when you have built trust with your students. She says, “Observing changes in their behaviour can support me to know when I need to check in with students and spend extra time chatting to them.”

When it comes to a more planned approach, she comments, “Some of the more formal ways I check in with students is through class meetings at the beginning and end of the day. These sessions teach students the emotions and how to manage these emotions, which supports with my daily check-ins.”

When planning a wellbeing check-in, consider questions like the following to get a picture of your students’ emotional state:

  • How are you feeling today? What is contributing to you feeling that way?
  • How supported do you feel supported by your teacher(s) and classmates?
  • How proud do you feel about the schoolwork you’ve been producing lately?
  • How well do you feel you can contribute to class discussions?
  • Is there anything you would like to tell or ask your teacher?

Download our primary and secondary PDF check-in card at the bottom of this blog post to share with your students and find out what they are thinking and feeling.

3.    Get moving

It can be difficult for little bodies to stay still all day – or even till lunchtime – so don’t forget that a short brain break can go a long way. At least once per day, try to get the kids to stand up for a minute and move their body. This could be stretching, doing windmills with their arms, star jumps, or any other fun one-minute activity you can think of. Rather than growing frustrated with young children for their ‘short attention span’, instead acknowledge their need to move by building in regular stand-and-stretch moments throughout the day. If you have more time on a particular day, take them outside for a short walk, skip, jog or game.

4.    Listen to your students

Students can often feel like they are being lectured or that adults sometimes don’t value their voices. We know that you’re the one teaching, but as primary teacher Rochelle says, “Enabling students to have a voice and agency in their learning really supports their happiness at school.” Whether this is throughout a lesson or asking for feedback after class, open communication benefits both teacher and student and you have the opportunity to grow as an educator.

Show that you’re humble and willing to learn by owning your mistakes and allowing students to ask questions. Try to avoid long lectures, and if you sense your students disengaging, look at where you can make the lesson more relatable. You may even try to adapt in the moment, like one maths teacher we spoke to who sensed he was losing the class’s attention, so he switched into a British accent for the rest of the lesson.

Wherever possible, promote a proactive and independent learning style, allowing students to develop critical thinking and draw their own conclusions about topics and tasks. This approach not only builds students’ confidence in their own abilities but paves the way for robust class discussions.

5.    Make it fun

Keeping things fresh can be a challenge, but teachers who use humour and out of the box ideas, activities and examples are bound to have more engaged students. Think back to some of your most memorable lessons as a child: what stands out?

Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and get a little animated when trying to explain a concept. While humour should always be balanced with respect, if something harmless cracks the class up, be a good sport and laugh along with them before moving on. Remember, if a lesson is not fun for you, it’s not fun for them either.

Some ideas to get you started are:

  • Experiments and activities that get students involved
  • Conducting a lesson outside
  • Have your students teach parts of the lesson
  • Incorporate mystery into your lessons, like posing a question at the start of the lesson, gathering hypotheses from students, then set about answering it as a team
  • Use role play, pop culture references, or examples from your students’ daily experiences to explain concepts
  • Replace lectures with conversations
  • When reading books to students, put on funny voices or let them read parts
  • Create classroom games
  • Use technology, like incorporating video content
  • Wherever possible, allow your students choices when it comes to their learning

6.    More praise, less criticism

“It is usually best to be generous with praise but cautious with criticism.” – Unknown

It’s a golden rule for the positive to outweigh the negative, and that includes your comments to the class. Build a reputation as a teacher who makes students feel confident, secure, and happy about themselves by letting the majority of your remarks be positive and encouraging. Students usually know when they’re failing in certain areas, and being criticised too frequently isn’t productive. It’s not necessary to pick them up on every little thing they do wrong and you’ll find your students happier, more confident and willing to tackle new challenges if you support them in feeling capable and motivated.

Teachers have incredible power and influence, and great teachers are remembered fondly by students, even decades after they’ve left the classroom. As the leader, you have the opportunity to set the tone of the classroom and create an environment where students feel seen, heard, valued and supported. We hope this article has given you some encouragement as well as creative tips to maintaining a lively and engaged classroom.

Written by Lil van Wyngaard

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