How to get a great atmosphere in your Primary Classroom

One of the great things about teaching is the interaction that occurs between the teacher and the class. Together we share the ups and downs of daily life both in and out of the classroom and there is a strong bond that develops between the children and the class teacher.

Well that’s what we would like to think happens – but it doesn’t occur naturally and has to be developed slowly as both sides get used to, and acclimatise to each other.

One of the mistakes that many new teachers make is to start out on a “friendly” footing with their new class. I have many times heard requests for any great fun ideas to “get to know you” – its an easy mistake to make and can very quickly backfire on the teacher concerned.

Whatever type of school you are in – from tough inner city to leafy country village school; the children have the “potential” to make life very difficult for you as a teacher if you don’t approach things in the right way.

At this point you may be asking yourselves” what does this have to do with creating a great atmosphere in class?”  Well bear with me and I will explain…

The children in your class are expecting you to be the TEACHER

When you first start with a class of children you have approximately 3 days to establish who is in charge in your classroom and the basics of how things are going to operate. After this time the children will assume they have you “worked out” and will start to push boundaries.

So if you’ve started out as the fun, jokey easy going teacher then you will get that sort of behaviour reaction from the children- but magnified….and if you have not set out your basic behaviour and class management strategies then the children’s behaviour will be difficult to manage.

The basic first point is therefore – “to achieve a great atmosphere in you class you must first have all the behaviour and class management strategies in place and working at all times” – you are the teacher and you have control.

I think I have said this before but its an old adage that’s worth repeating. I remember an experienced colleague saying to me “I never smile before Christmas” – and he was right he didn’t!….in the first term he was setting out the terms and conditions of how his class was going to function and what he expected from the children. It was strict but fair and the children knew who was the boss! Moving forward from this point of reference gives you control of the class – and that’s where you want to be.

If you start off easy its always very difficult to tighten things up – if you begin in an organised and disciplined manner then as a teacher you can always ease off.

It is from this position that you now can start to develop the atmosphere in your classroom – the children are aware of how the class operates and functions, they are aware of the expectations both from a behavioural and work perspectives and they also are in no doubt that you are the Teacher and in charge.

Creating atmosphere starts with getting to know and becoming aware of just who the children are. Gradually they stop becoming “pupils” within your class and develop into special personalities and children in “our class”. When your classroom management strategies underpin and become the foundations of “how” we do things then as a class “we” can move forward to enjoy being a class together.

From a teachers point of view – the knowledge that you can relax the situation slightly to enjoy a joke or a funny story or moment is based on the fact that –

  • You are still in control
  • You can pull the situation back when you need to.

There have certainly been times when both myself and my T.A have been in stitches in the classroom at something that has been said or written – the whole class enjoys the moment and to be honest children love to see their teacher laughing and enjoying it also.

It is the little things that you do in class that create a great atmosphere and shows children that aside from being their teacher you are also friendly, caring and supportive.

Show an interest in the children…ask about their hobbies or the clubs and events they go to in the evenings. If they get a pet make a big fuss about it and get them to tell everybody. If someone is sad be extra supportive, perhaps even offer to talk to the child involved at playtime or lunchtime – become someone they can trust and rely on.

One of the things that I always used was to let my classes have a glimpse of my own personal life – not much but they got to know that I had 2 boys, how old they were and what were their names. I told them about our dog and together we shared our fears and sadness when she was very ill and we were all overjoyed when she got better – I shared silly things that happened at our house and yes perhaps exaggerated the amount of milk that got spilt when the fridge door broke!

Its a strange thing but in sharing all these little things with “your class” you really get to bond together. Mums and dads often used to comment that their children would come home and report having done nothing at school but then go on to say how “Mr Watsons chair broke a leg and how Koko the dog was doing!”

Don’t be concerned that in creating this great atmosphere you will destroy things if you have to pull the class up at any time for either behaviour or work. At times this will be needed so don’t hesitate to do it – it doesn’t affect the atmosphere and bond you have in class – it might suspend it for a short time, but it doesn’t go away and will return whenever YOU judge things are back to normal.

There you have it – build those foundations first which will enable you to create the sort of class atmosphere that you want. You’ll know when you have achieved it…its a great thing and certainly a successful point to reach. Its the little things that make it work – so thumbs up, a little wink or a high 5 and we’re all smiling !

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