Creating Classroom Culture

As we discussed in our small group tonight, getting students engaged and vocal in class requires building an emotionally safe and encouraging classroom environment. Our question was whether literature or personal strategies are available. So, here’s the beginning of the list.

1) Ask questions about their lives outside of class.

2) Encourage a judgement free environment and respond accordingly to comments that don’t fit.

3) Use their interests and allow them to participate in decision making.

4) Teach them the language to discuss books and support multiple different perspectives.

These are the ones we’ve discussed so far in class and they are pretty general. Please add ideas for how we can build healthy relationships with our students.




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6 responses to “Creating Classroom Culture

  1. sofiapenna

    I find numbers 1 and 3 on your list to be the most crucial. The outside lives of students and their personal interests are the foundation of what draws them to reading content, don’t you agree? Students want to read about themselves through different characters and situations. Cookie-cutter textbooks cannot provide this opportunity and will turn students away from the idea of reading if this is all that they know.

    When I think of my own reading life, I think about why I like to read and when I like to read. I read because I want to feel connected to people, places, and events outside of myself. Whenever I feel lost, so to speak, I hunt down a good novel or autobiography that will speak to me, directly. Don’t our students do the same, subconsciously?

    Asking our students about their current perceptions of their surroundings will eventually help them target personalized reading material. For this reason, I am starting to become a big fan of teachers who set up genre requirements for the classrooms and then give students book choices within that genre. -Sofia

  2. allison

    5. Choices. Kids love choices and I think we should trust students to make choices. They will surprise and delight us with intelligent ones! Choices can be about what to read, how to react and what to write about (or what to say using another mode).

    6. Honesty. It becomes easier for students to follow rules or assignments when they understand why. I find that if you respect students and take the time to talk to them about why we, as teachers, do things, the students will respond more positively.

  3. sfarah19

    Thanks for posting our thoughts Jillian! I agree with Sophia in that our students are drawn to reading material they can relate to. As readers, we often put ourselves in the role of the main character. Some of my favorite novels are those with which I feel I’ve made a real connection to the main character. Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying” was the first novel I actually read for “therapy” (following with what Sophia said). Reading can be thereaputic in these cases and it would be a great achievment if we, as teachers, could get our students to make a real connection with a novel or author even. This connection is where our love for reading evolves from and carries with us through out our lives.

    I do want to add something to the list as well. I think it’s important to encourage students to tackle reading that’s outside their comfort zone, or maybe material they can not really relate to. This is why using multi-cultural literature is so important. Our students need to learn about what goes on in the world outside their neighborhoods or classrooms and what better way to do it then through books?


  4. jillian24

    I agree, Suzanne. I also want to add that when we encourage our students to expand either in content or ability, it is crucial that we follow up with them about how they’re doing and whether they have questions and concerns. Ongoing, sincere interest is important, as well.

  5. sfarah19


    I agree. Isn’t that a part of creating that “comfort zone” for our students? Sincere interest seems to play a large part in that.


  6. mandygrl101

    Suzanne, you make a good point. I wish I had been introduced to a more diverse set of literature when I was a young adolescent. Although I read a variety of texts as an undergrad, both in and out of the classroom, I would have benefited much more if I had read more culturally diverse lit when I was younger. For example, I read the Kite Runner as an undergrad, and this would be a wonderful book for a high school student to interact with. It deals with war, culture, and conflict, but is also about personal relationships. I was able to connect with certain elements of this story, while others were unfamiliar but incredibly valuable and informative. This author presents a unique perspective, and the story enlightens readers about events in the Middle East. I definitely agree that high school students need to read more diverse literature…especially in this flat world!!

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