Creating a Positive Classroom Culture: 4 Practices to Help Students Meet High Expectations



As part of the positive classroom culture that I want to create for my students, I am working on creating a place where meeting high expectations is the norm.

This is part of my over all vision of a positive classroom culture, which has four components:

Culture of Risk-Taking and Mistake-Making:  Students feel safe to take risks and make mistakes.

Culture of Belonging:  Students feel a strong sense of community and identify themselves as an important member of the community.

A Culture of High Expectations:  Students are supported in meeting high expectations, both academic and behavioural.

A Culture of Perseverance:  Students develop a growth mindset.

In this blog post I will focus on the practices and I have been implementing to support the third component, creating a culture of high expectations.

1)   Students Know How and When to Apologize

One of the first things we talk about at the beginning of the year, is that it’s ok to make mistakes.  In fact, mistake-making and risk-taking is part of the class culture I am trying to create for my students.

But how does that apply to behavioural expectations?  I make behavioural expectations clear at the beginning of the year, but I know they are going to make mistakes.  It’s not realistic to think that students will follow them perfectly all the time.  To keep expectations high without expecting perfection, we need a plan in place for when it does.

Essentially, students are expected to ‘make things right’.  This can mean a number of different things, and one of the ways to make things right is to apologize.  We discussed how and when to apologize, and what to do when on the receiving end of one.  We use a four-step apology in our classroom, one where they identify specifically what they are apologizing for, acknowledge why it was wrong, identify what they are going to do differently next time, and asking if the person if they will accept their apology.

Having clear expectations about what is to be done when we make a mistake, break a rule, or hurt a classmate helps to promote a culture of high behavioural expectations in a positive way since students since students aren’t expected to be be perfect, but they expected to take responsibility for their actions.

2)  Post Success Criteria for Assignments

In order to promote a culture of high expectations, students need to know what success looks like.

I have been trying to post a checklist citing the success criteria that will be used to assess their work for every activity, lesson, or assignment.  Sometimes I will post rubric, but for simplicity I often use a checklist since most students find it easier to assess their own work against a checklist than a rubric.

3)  Post the Classroom Expectations Everyday

It probably sounds strange to take down the poster that has our classroom rules written on it at the end of each day.  But because I do, it means that everyday we must post them back up again.  It keeps the classroom expectations front and centre.

If I hang the poster in September and leave it up, after a while, the poster seems to almost disappear.  It’s been there so long we don’t even see it anymore.  Having to re-post it everyday, or every week,  keeps it relevant.

I ask a different student to read the expectations to the class, and find a place to post it.  I thought this might be a little cheesy for my grade 5 and 6 students, but hanging the poster has become a regular part of our morning routine and they don’t think anything of it.  Not only does it serve as a reminder to the students, but it serves as a reminder to me to refer to the classroom expectations when addressing student behaviour.  I find it helpful if I can tie the issue back to the expectations that they had agreed upon at the beginning of the year.

4)  Provide Feedback

Students need to know what they are doing well and what they need to work on if students are going to meet high expectations.    Feedback is essential to make this happen.

We talked about feedback early in the year, and students know that it is an important part of learning and improving.  I helped to prepare students for regular feedback by letting them know that feedback would be kind, specific, and would be in small doses.  Students understand that it is given in small doses because they are expected to improve their work in response to the feedback for next time.

Classroom Culture

Next time I will talk about what I am doing to help create a culture of perseverance.

Happy Learning.

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