3 quick ways to help build a positive and encouraging classroom

Group of happy elementary students in their positive and encouraging classroom.
There are many easy ways to help build a positive and encouraging classroom environment.




I was listing words out in preparation for writing this blog explaining why we, as teachers focus on ways to create encouraging classrooms and build classroom community for our students. I got hung up on the word empowered. That’s a great word. The word empower means making someone more assertive and confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. What a beautiful world it would be if every precious little child walking into school could feel stronger and more confident. If  I can help accomplish that by setting up my classroom a certain way or establishing specific policies or procedures. Then sign me up. I am here for it.

What exactly is a positive classroom? 

Happy and smiling elementary student who feels loved and valued.
Creating procedures in the classroom that allows the class to celebrate the individual student.


What does it mean?

Many phrases get thrown around; among them are encouraging classrooms, positive classroom culture, or building classroom community. Their origins may all be unique, but the basics are the same.  

The classroom community is where the teacher and students work together towards common goals with shared values. This space is full of positive and uplifting policies and procedures where the teachers and the students feel appreciated for who they are. Additionally, time is taken from the beginning of school to focus on creating routines and putting practices into place that celebrate the individual student and build a strong team of learners that take the time to celebrate both their accomplishments and their team goals.

Why is a positive classroom environment important?

No one wants to continue to go into a hostile environment every day. People flood social media with the effects of working in a toxic environment. And during my research, I saw several trends online for creating, maintaining, and spreading positivity in the workplace. Positive workplaces report advanced productivity and fewer absences. Even better health is enjoyed by those working in a happier place. It is the same for school-age children.  

Students spend most of their day in the same classroom with the same group. A positive classroom environment can lead to fewer disruptions because supportive classrooms build a sense of trust among the students and teacher, and you can’t have much of anything without trust first. While building more positive classroom communities in my room, I have seen students build stronger peer relationships and learn to hold healthy conflict resolutions. And I have enjoyed seeing the respect students develop for each other and the happier supportive environment they help create for themselves.


Three framed photo of snippets of elementary children smiling and happy because their classroom is a positive place to be.
Building classroom community is easy when you include individual student celebrations.

3 Ways to Celebrate the Students

One of my favorite ways to help create positive classroom environments is by implementing student celebrations throughout the year. In addition to celebrating team goals like improved test scores and reading levels, I also incorporate individual celebrations.

Student of the Week.

Teacher sitting with a circle of elementary students during a morning meeting.
Including celebrations in the morning meeting routine gives time to allow connections to be made purposefully.

We celebrate the individual student all week long. Student-of-the-week has been done and re-done. I know. And I love it. I created a couple of super simple forms (You can check them out here) that the child could fill out by herself and not need hours of home support to complete. Every day she shares something else about herself.  

My VERY FAVORITE part, and I urge you to do this too, no matter what student-of-the-week routine you use: Every day, the student-of-the-week shares something during the morning meeting. (I give my students a list a week or so ahead of time so they know what to expect and can prepare themselves).

Right after she shares, I go around the circle, and each student either comments on something that is the same for them or asks her a specific question about something they shared.

For example, my student could say she has two dogs and three cats at home. My other students going around the circle could also comment that they have a dog or cat or ask something specific like, “What are the names of your dogs?” “Do you have a favorite cat?” “What color are your cats?” etc.

I love seeing the children’s connections with one another and myself because I participate.

(Pro tip: sharing time and community building activities are always stronger when the teacher is a willing participant too and not taking this time to try to complete something else. Show by your actions that you value your students.)  


Post birthdays on the wall near the student of the Week display and group names by month. I also have the students each sign a birthday sign for the student, and I leave it on the student’s desk on the morning of his birthday with his favorite candy and the class’ birthday animal.’ Since I make this a classroom job, keeping this going all year is effortless.  

My favorite part is during the morning meeting when the birthday child stands in the middle of the circle, and we sing happy birthday to him. He chooses a classroom cheer, and we all cheer for him, and everyone gives him a high five or fist bump. I love watching the student run around the circle, getting high-fived.

Smiling student in the classroom looking happy as she is complimented on her behavior.
Use a class compliment jar to allow students to compliment the behaviors of their peers.

Class Compliment Jar.

Class compliments have also been done in many ways, but this is how I created and love it. We use the class compliment jar for one student at a time. I announce the name on Monday, and the students have until Thursday to write a compliment to the student on the provided slips and put it in the jar.  

Disclaimer: At the beginning of school, we have a lesson about complimenting someone. Give compliments directed at the student’s nature, not something they have or their athletic ability. Make compliments specific, not “You are nice,” but rather, “You always smile at me, and that makes me feel good.” or “You are nice because I see you making sure everyone always gets involved in our games at recess.”

On Friday, the student is “showered with compliments” the compliments are taken out of the jar and tied together with a compliment cover (you can see mine here). The students circle up on the floor. Place a chair in the middle of the circle, and the class president stands in the chair with a small bucket. The student with her name in the compliment jar stands in the middle of the circle of students in front of the chair with a bright-colored shower cap. The class vice-president reads each compliment as the president slowly showers the student with confetti. Afterward, present the student with the compliment book to keep. (Snap a photo of the child being showered with the compliments and slip it into the back of the compliment book).

My job is to help ensure every student feels loved and valued. These student celebrations are a great addition to an encouraging classroom.




One more thing is essential to mention. (I have said it before and will do so again). As teachers, we must remember that a positive classroom and a loving teacher cannot undo the effects of trauma, replace physical or mental health needs, or cover up underfunded or under-resourced schools. I know this. It hurts my heart, but I know this. I cannot do everything. But I can be a light. And the classroom can be a safe place to go every day where everyone can feel important.


Hugs, teacher friends. 

Thank you for sharing your light with your students and helping them grow. Continue to show your magic to the world. The world needs you.


May we all continue to bloom, thrive, and grow.




Check out these other positive classroom ideas:

Student Celebrations

Positive Alphabets

Positive Classroom Decor