A positive classroom environment often plays a pivotal role in student learning. Fostering a classroom climate that promotes the learning community can reap benefits for all stakeholders involved. Feeling a sense of belonging to an organization can increase participation and build confidence. Primary and elementary grades often spend a good part of the first few days of school focused on creating a classroom community. Building that classroom community can take many forms. Joy Kirr’s Livebinder provides many classroom community building activities that I found helpful. A focus on team building, sharing and reflection can all aid in building a productive learning environment that will set a strong foundation for the school year.
This isn’t necessarily easy as there’s always curriculum to cover, but setting aside time to create a classroom climate is worthwhile. Once established and continually reinforced, it can be a driving force in which students take academic risks in the classroom. Whether its student council, clubs, art class, or whatever, that sense of belonging often enables students to participate at higher levels as they feel that their voice is truly valued. When I speak of risk, I think of the term in a positive way. The risks that I’m speaking of often help students move beyond taking a stagnant stance with their education. Student risk can take many forms in the classroom.
Taking a risk could mean that students:
- Answer/ask questions more often
- Are more open to feedback given by peers and teachers
- Are able to collaborate with others
- Show perseverance when approaching challenging tasks
- Take more ownership of their learning
- Able to explain their mathematical thinking in more detail
- Take pride in their work more often
- Reflect on their performance and set goals
- Rise above their own personal expectations
- Start to develop leadership skills
For some students a risk is to raise their hand in class. For others, students might engage in mathematical conversations with their peers or use feedback as a learning tool. Another student might want to take what was introduced in class and start an enrichment project. Personal risk is truly determined by the student. To make sure that students take academic risks they need to feel as though their community supports them. Modeling how to approach risk-taking in the classroom is important. Sharing personal stories and continually reinforcing that making mistakes is part of the learning process can help create opportunities for students to take risks on their own. Teachers can start by creating low-risk opportunities in the classroom (See Reed’s post for examples). These tasks can be powerful and foster a positive classroom climate in the process.
How do you create a classroom that encourages risk-taking?