Committee for Children Blog

Key Factors in Creating a Positive Classroom Climate

classroom climate, K-5, early learning, middle school, positive

UPDATE: Read our latest article “Three Ways to Foster a Positive Classroom Climate” written by Kim Gulbrandson, Ph.D.


I’ve been hearing a lot about “positive classroom climate.” What does this mean?

Classroom climate refers to the prevailing mood, attitudes, standards, and tone that you and your students feel when they are in your classroom.  A negative classroom climate can feel hostile, chaotic, and out of control. A positive classroom climate feels safe, respectful, welcoming, and supportive of student learning.

But there’s not much I can do about the classroom’s climate, right? I get the students I get!

The good news is that a classroom’s climate doesn’t just happen—it’s created! Regardless of your students’ past experiences, there are things you can do to deliberately shape the climate of your classroom into a positive learning environment.

That’s great news! What can I do to create a positive classroom climate?

To create a positive climate for your classroom, focus on the following three “pieces” of the classroom climate “pie:”

Positive Classroom Climate

  1. Develop and reinforce classroom rules and norms that clearly support safe and respectful behavior. Having classroom rules helps you create a predictable, safe learning environment for your students. Rules give your students clear boundaries and opportunities to practice self-regulation and make good choices. When students feel safe and respected both emotionally and physically, they are able to focus better on learning.
  2. Promote positive peer relationships. You want to create an environment where your students support and are kind to one another. Some ways you can do this are:
    • Notice and reinforce casual positive interactions between students on a daily basis.
    • Deliberately plan relationship-building activities and games that encourage positive interactions. These can be long-term projects, or short and simple games designed for students to get to know each other better.
    • Pay attention to the social dynamics of your classroom. Do some students have trouble making friends? Do some students have trouble getting along with others? Who has a lot of friends? Who has few friends? Interviewing your students one-on-one can help you identify students that have stronger or weaker social connections. This can inform your seating arrangements, guide your grouping and pairing decisions, and assist you in helping students form new networks of friends.
    • Have class meetings. Class meetings provide a safe environment in which students can discuss with you and each other topics that are important to them. You and your students can get to know each other better and build relationships through open discussions on subjects like: Following Rules, How to Get Help, Including Others at Recess, Solving Playground Problems, etc. This helps create a positive classroom climate built on trust and respect.
  3. Nurture positive relationships with all students. You need to let your students know that you not only care about their progress in the classroom, you also care about them as human beings. Some ways you can do this are:
    • Greet your students by name every time they walk in the door. This lets them know that you notice and care that they are there.
    • Use warm, inclusive behaviors with your face, body, and words each day. Smile! Ask, “How are you feeling?” Look at your students. Notice and reinforce their positive behaviors with encouraging words.
    • Ask your students personal questions that will help you get to know them and what’s happening in their lives outside of school. “How was your soccer game last night?” “Is your grandma feeling better?”
    • Notice changes in students’ physical and emotional behaviors. Changes may indicate a student is in need of additional emotional support. Provide or find support for that student as needed.
    • Spend and keep track of individual time with each one of your students over a set duration (such as each month).

Is there a way I can see how well our classroom climate is doing?

Yes! Check in with your students throughout the year during one-on-one interviews, or ask for their written responses to some of the following types of questions: Do you feel safe in our class? Are students in our class kind to each other? Do students in our class follow the rules? Do you feel included by the other students? What else would you like me to know about you? Make adjustments as necessary based on your students’ feedback to ensure a positive learning environment for your students.