Committee for Children Blog

Three Ways to Foster a Positive Classroom Climate

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

Happy, Calm Children Learn Best
Daniel Goleman

How long have you been working on classroom climate?

My guess is you began working on it before you even stepped into your first classroom, and you’ve continued to adjust and refine your efforts ever since. Improving and maintaining a positive classroom climate is a continuous process. If you’re looking to hone your strategies for creating a safe, supportive learning environment, consider adding these ideas to your teaching tools.

Know Students’ Interests, Likes, and Dislikes

Have students fill out an interest inventory to learn more about what motivates them; what makes them happy, nervous, and frustrated; and what they most enjoy doing. Have students work in pairs and small groups for activities that encourage self-sharing and storytelling. Make personal connections with students based on what you learn, and consider individual student interests and strengths when planning and organizing activities and lessons.

Create and Keep a Shared Vision

Collectively establish classroom community agreements. Ask students what they want their classroom community to be like. Should the agreements involve treating each other with kindness, laughing, listening, using positive words, making sure all people have a voice, taking risks, or staying engaged in the learning?
Ask students what they’ll commit to doing to honor those agreements. Display and revisit the agreements often, and set up ways for students to keep to their commitments. Try these examples:

  • Have students find a buddy who will support them in following the agreements.
  • Pick a focus. Ask the class which agreements they’d like to focus on for the day.
  • Have student volunteers observe and periodically report on how the class is doing in following the agreements.
  • Hold regular check-ins throughout the day to ask: What agreement are we following today? Which agreement are we struggling with? How can we do a better job following this agreement today?
  • Emphasize the positives. Point out what you noticed students saying or doing to follow the agreements.

Ensure Each Person Contributes

Honor multiple forms of expression and participation. Balance activities and class requirements to allow for these different ways of knowing and showing.

  • Use “Every Person Responds” cards. Make index cards with student names on them, one card per student. Ask a question, then randomly shuffle through the cards to select a student to answer the question. Give students the opportunity to pass, share their thoughts with a partner who then paraphrases for the group, or get peer input before they answer the question.
  • Implement class problem-solving. Have students work in pairs or small groups to generate ideas before sharing with the large group.
  • Use group roles for activities, such as recorder, reporter, reader, task focuser, clock watcher, and encourager, so each student in the group has a part.
  • Give multiple options for students to show how they know something—such as making a speech, writing a paper or poem, performing a rap, drawing a picture, making a collage, creating a flowchart, making a video, or taking a test.


For more ideas on establishing and maintaining a positive classroom climate, check out these resources:
Educational Leadership: “Seven Strategies for Building Positive Classrooms
Committee for Children: “Key Factors in Creating a Positive Classroom Climate
National School Climate Center: “Twelve Dimensions of School Climate

Read about social-emotional learning, research on the topic, and how it benefits students in the classroom, at home, and in their daily lives.