Dear Future Teachers,
In my last post, Why We Should Strive To Develop a Positive Classroom Climate, I discussed the importance of creating a positive space for learning. Positivity can be expressed in many different ways, through the language we use, to the expectations we set, to how we treat students, etc. As I mentioned before, my high school teacher, Mr. Edmonds, implemented 'positive protocols' to build a sense of community and respect within our classroom. I loved the addition to our class setting, and I believe that all classrooms should have short activities to boost positivity amongst students. I decided to compile a list of activities for elementary, middle, and high school aged students so you can have a list of ideas to add to your own classroom!
Activities For Elementary School Classrooms
Community circle. You can begin class with a community circle. Teacher and students form a circle, and there is a designated talking piece that will go around the circle. You can begin with a 'temperature check' where you ask how students are doing that day (gives you a chance to see what mindset students are in and gives students a chance to be seen). Everyone respects the talking piece and waits for their turn. You can choose a question/topic/prompt of the day for students to respond to during the circle. The circle is nice because it allows all students to communicate with each other and get to know each other more personally.
Name something good that's happened in the last 24 hours. It can be big or small, but having students name something positive that they've experienced within the past day can help them focus on the good things in their life, give them a chance to share exciting things with the class, and allows them to reflect on their day.
Shout outs/appreciation notes. Shout outs and appreciation notes encourage students to give compliments to each other. You can choose whether they write down their shout outs or say them out loud! You can design it for students to submit/give shout outs/notes when they notice a classmate doing something great! To facilitate this activity, you may have to give your own shout outs so students see how the process works. Another spin on this activity that you can do is asking everyone to write a positive note to their desk neighbors, that way everyone receives some love!
Daily affirmations. By having students recite daily affirmations as a class, you can instill positive messages in them and build their self-esteem. Maybe you can have the affirmations on the board and students can read off the affirmations together each day! The affirmations you choose to incorporate are up to you, but here is an example of some mantras that can be beneficial for students to repeat!
(Image sourced from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/535365474438243781/)
Activities for Middle School Classrooms
Peer interviews. Peer interviews are a great way to begin the school year. For this activity, students will partner up and ask each other questions to get to know each other better. You can provide a list of questions for students to ask to maintain conversation flow, and switch partners as the activity goes on! Students can build a rapport with each other and become comfortable with the people they will be sharing a classroom with. You may even spark some long-lasting friendships!
Listing positive traits. This activity serves the purpose of building self-esteem. Middle school can be a difficult time for students who have to adjust to a new school schedule, new peers, and the changing of their bodies. This activity would remain private, so students can write openly and honestly. You should instruct students to write positive traits about themselves and good things that they've done for others. This activity enforces positive thinking about oneself.
Letter to yourself. Writing a letter to one's future self allows students to think about their futures and their goals. Not only is it a neat letter to look back on as they grow older, but it can aid students in manifesting their ambitions. Students can write about their future plans, make a note about where they are in life currently to mark their growth later on, and explore their aspirations.
Human knot. The human knot is a team-building exercise. Part of creating a positive classroom environment is to create a cohesive and connected relationship amongst classmates. It's hard to feel positive if there is a noticeable animosity or negative feelings between students. In this exercise, students stand in a circle, cross their arms in front of them, and grab onto two other hands that do not belong to the people beside of them. The goal is to work together to untangle themselves while not letting go of each others' hands. There is a lot of communication needed to finish the activity successfully.
(Image sourced from https://guideinc.org/2015/09/15/team-building-activity-human-knot/).
Activities for High School Classrooms
Giving each other affirmations. This is actually a small activity that I did in several of my own high school classes. What students will do is take out a blank sheet of paper and write their name somewhere on it. Next, everyone will pass their paper to their neighbor on the right or left. When a student receives a paper, they will write a personal message to the person whose name is on the paper. This message can be a compliment, something they appreciate about that person, or any kind of positive words they want to share. Students can choose to stay anonymous or sign their name under their message. The papers will continue to go around the room until everyone has written a message on all of the circulating papers. This activity helps with self-esteem, building each other up, and creating an overall warm feeling amongst students. I cherished the messages written to me when I did this activity, and I'm sure your students will, too!
Thank you cards. Thank you cards are a quick activity where students can reflect on who they are thankful for in their life. They can write to a friend, teacher, family member, or anyone else who has made a positive impact on their life. Not only will students feel good about sharing a thank you card with someone they love, but they will also be aware of who is in their support system that they can truly rely on.
Escape the classroom. Much like an 'escape room', you can come up with a challenge for students to 'escape the classroom.' There are many different templates on Pinterest or other online resources to search through. You may even be inspired by another teacher and come up with your own twist to the game! The escape room encourages teamwork and communication, and also provides a common goal for students to reach together. It's a fun way to bring positive energy into the classroom!
No-hands cup stacking challenge. This activity is one that I experienced in Mr. Edmonds' class! In this activity, the entire class (or groups of students) work together to stack plastic cups using only string and a rubber band. The exercise requires that students listen to each other and all students have a part to play. This activity really emphasized unity in our classroom, and Mr. Edmonds' explained that what we do in life cannot work unless we work with others to succeed. A picture of the exercise is provided below!
(Image sourced from https://fi.pinterest.com/pin/187603140709034087/)
I hope you enjoyed reading through the different activities to try in your own classroom! Let these activities inspire you to continue creating your own exercises to increase the positive classroom climate. You know your students best, so feel free to change up some activities, or search for more! I really appreciated activities such as those listed above when I was in school, and I know there are more students out there who will truly benefit from you taking the initiative to create a positive space for them to learn! If you have any suggestions for other activities, send me a message through my contact form on the home page, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may be featured in a future post!