Creating a Positive Classroom Community {Freebies + a Giveaway!!!}

Hello Everyone!

Remember me? I’m Halle from Across the Hall in 2nd Grade and I’m so happy to be kicking off weeks worth of Back to School posts here on Owl-ways Be Inspired!!!

I hope that you’ve nabbed each and every ROCKIN’ freebie that my friends have presented you with over the last few weeks.  

Seriously, they are awesome!

When I think of Back to School, I think of a new group of kiddos.  They’re excited to be in school, I’m excited to be in school…it's a win/win and I want to hit the ground running with all that good fortune.  That’s why creating a positive classroom community is so important to me.  I spend days and weeks prior to school starting thinking and dreaming up activities that will help me establish a positive classroom climate. Once school actually starts I spend every minute creating an environment where my students feel safe and secure.

I want to share with you a few ways I do that…

It’s the Little Things...

I said above that I spend a lot of time coming up with ideas and activities that create a positive classroom community and I am going to share some of those with you below, but it’s really the everyday little things that make a difference.

*I say good morning to each student individually every morning.  I pick my students up from the main doors and walk them to my room. I spend that walk talking to one or two students about their morning, or their big sister who I used to teach, stuff like that.  Once we get to my door I say good morning "so and so" to each child.  For some of these kids I am the first adult saying good morning to them. It's an important start to our day.

*I don’t yell. Oh, I’ve raised my voice. I think it necessary when circumstances call for it, but I don’t yell.  Can you imagine a student that feels safe enough to take educational risks in a classroom where the teacher screams and yells? Neither can I.

*I listen.  By the end of the first month or so of school I have a pretty good grasp on what makes each child unique; how many brothers and sisters they have, if they play sports, their special talents, whether or not they like to buy lunch at school.  For the shy ones this means giving up a lunch or two to sit down and really get to know them, but it’s worth it.

*I get silly. I don’t know that being silly is essential in creating a positive classroom climate but I know it sure helps me!  At first my kiddos don’t really know how to react when I start singing about proper nouns or odd and even numbers, but soon enough they’re making up songs right along side me.

And last but not least…

*I leave my baggage at the door.  It’s no surprise to you that teaching is stressful.  Everytime we look up there’s a new mandate or policy we have to follow. We have to create lessons that engage every learner at every level. We may or may not have administrators that support us.  I definitely feel the effects of stress at work. My grade partners wouldn’t argue with that statement.  But it’s not my students’ fault and they shouldn’t have to pay for it with a bad attitude or sourpuss look from me.  So I check it at the door.

These are the things I can do each and every day for my students. They require no planning or prep and they make all the difference in the world.

Now, here are some activities we do at the beginning of the year and throughout the year to keep that momentum going…

1} What I Like About My Classroom…

I was inspired by this print on the adorable blog, eighteen25. I actually pinned it LAST summer and forgot all about it! I intended to print it and put it in my room and have my whole class sign it on the very first day.  I was productive and went to  Michael's and bought a frame {with a coupon, of course} and I came home...and...I bought the wrong frame.  I'll just say it now, I STINK at returning things.  Since I knew this about myself I decided to make my own version of this lovely print in a 5x7. {The original has two print options: 8x11 or 16x20}.

My version is "Mac Approved" and you can find it here. I actually made a few different color options if you're interested. If you like the original, you can find it here. It's free there too!

{Please ignore that scary reflection of yours truly. It does not come in the download. Promise}

2} Classroom Compliments

Classroom Compliments is a "program" I started my very first year of teaching...5 years ago...crazy. I came up with it on a whim and it might be the best "fly by the seat of my pants" idea that I've ever had. Seriously. It even made it into Mailbox Magazine!

How it works in MY classroom:

Every Friday, students pull a name randomly and write that person a compliment. I spend a lot of time with my students talking about writing specific compliments, not just "You are nice".  They even keep a "Compliment Suggestions" sheet in their classwork folders. This is morning work for the day and usually takes about 15 minutes {let's be honest...a little longer at the beginning of the year...} Students can color or decorate their sheets if they have extra time. 

Then they pass their compliments to each other and read what their classmate wrote.  Notice I said classmate and not friend. I know that all of my students are not friends with eachother. Some students don't just don't interact socially with eachother.  They may even get into tiffs on the playground or lunch room, but they still need to learn to be kind and compassionate towards one another...not just their best friends.

In fact, if you teach 3rd grade, you might want to give your students a class list and hold them responsible for choosing a new classmate each week {or each time you do Classroom Compliments}

I always call on 2 or 7 or 20 volunteers to read the compliment they received.  And yes, I participate.  Any compliment you write a student will light up their day.  It's basically like getting a compliment from Justin Timberlake :)

Try having a bad day after a Classroom Compliment session. I dare you!

If this sounds like something you'd like to implement in your classroom you can check it out on TpT by clicking here.  

It comes with seasonal "compliment forms" for every month of the year plus some options for anytime. I also give tips and suggestions for various ways to implement it in your classroom.

If you want to WIN my Classroom Compliments unit, comment below with your favorite classroom community tips, trick, advice, or activity. I'll announce a winner on the "Owl-ways Be Inspired" Facebook page tonight!

3} It's Important That my Teacher...

...listens? is smart? reads us a lot of books?

Have you ever asked your students what they want from you as a teacher?  

I have another freebie for you as the last activity I'm going to share today.  This will be a new activity for me this year, but I am really excited and hopeful about it.

I've created a few different sheets {depending on what grade you teach} that allow students to tell you what they find important in a teacher.  This is an excellent, risk-free way, for students to tell you what is important to them.  You can use their feedback to get to know them a little bit more and maybe even differentiate your responses and interactions with each child.

There are 4 sheets in all {3 pictured below}:

I encourage you to make an anchor chart or have a discussion before handing these sheets out, especially with incoming 2nd graders, or you'll get a lot of "pretty" and "nice" answers instead of something a little more constructive.

These are great at the beginning of the year, but also mid-year to see how your students responses have changed.

Grab them here.

I hope I've been able to offer up some new ideas on building a classroom community!  This is only a sample of what I do throughout the year.  Keep in mind that creating a positive environment is ongoing, but worth the work!

I wish you a happy, successful, and smooth school-year!

Be sure to check back over the next few weeks for my great Back to School ideas, tips, and products!



  1. I'm definitely going to try the teacher writing activity. Can't wait to see what they come up with :) one thing I do every year is read a variety of friendship / community building books and let the students decide what the message is and why it's important. They love getting to be the teacher and lead the discussion. Some of my favorite books are the crayon box that talked, have you filled a bucket today, and the Howard B. Wigglebottom books. I would love to win your compliment pack!!

    good enough teacher

  2. What a great idea! I have my students privately write compliments to all of their classmates a few times throughout the school year, and then we fold them up and pass them out like Valentine's Day cards. Once they are all passed out the kids sit at their desks and read all of their compliments and we share our favorites. They love it! I like your idea of doing this each week on a smaller scale. Even if I don't win your unit I think I'll have to try it!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Establishing a classroom community or family is what I love most about least during my student teaching :) I'm starting up my first year of teaching in a few weeks in 3rd grade! But I think it's so critical to teach kids how to talk to one another, how to agree and disagree, how to work in a group effectively, etc. All things that go back to community! My students and I did something similar during our morning meeting that we called appreciations. We talked about what it means to appreciate someone and then gave everyone in the circle the opportunity to give their appreciations...."I appreciate_____, because____". Your compliment pack would be a great complement to our appreciations! See what I did there? ;)

  4. We write a little letter to the Very Special Person of the Week, and like you, I really model how to write a specific letter. They end up in a booklet I staple together for the VSP and they are always a big hit with the student and his parents.

    tokyoshoes at hotmail dot com

  5. I like your idea of writing compliments to classmates. I also like that how you call them classmate and not friends. I always make sure I make that apparent to students by telling them that don't have to be friends with everyone but they should always be respectful. One thing I used to do with my second graders, before I moved to the older students, we did students of the day one girl and one boy but before we announced the winner we would all sing the song "We Are Family" ( i forget who the song is by). I explained to them that we may not be the traditional type of family that they are used to but for one year they were family! It worked very well that year. Now that I'm moving back down to second grade this packet will be helpful in helping me come up with a new way to help build that community. Thanks

  6. I LOVE the compliment cards! We are teaching our students to use complete sentences when speaking & writing...this would help with BOTH! wendy 1stgradefireworks

  7. I love your ideas! I can definitely see how it would start everyone's day off in a positive way.
    I do a lot of community building, too. One activity that I love is a sharing circle. We do this about once a week all year (usually on Monday). One student chooses a prompt from our sharing jar (misc questions that the students have written) and then each student takes a turn answering it. They have to thank the person before them before they can share.

  8. I really like your idea of the classroom compliments! We did something similar last year around Christmas with stocking stuffers. I tried to keep it going, but you know how that goes sometimes! The kids loved it though! I like the idea of the random draw. With Morning Meeting this year, this would be a great time to share these!

    I also try to go to at least one event (sports, dance, etc) for my kids. They love the fact you come to see them, and it helps me reconnect with former students as well!

  9. I've added your Classroom Compliments pack to my wishlist. We do an activity at the end of the year using The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. The students write a compliment to each classmate and everyone writes a page following The Important Book format. The students add photos and design their page using Google Docs. Everyone gets a copy of the booklet as a keepsake. I will incorporate the ideas in your pack this year and use my lesson as a culminating activity!

  10. I love the teacher writing activity! I also like the compliments idea.

  11. Great post, Halle! I think your classroom compliments idea is a great one. I might try it with my older students this year. I like affirmation circles, especially since I'm looping and most of my kids know each other already.


  12. I think that often times I get so caught up in teaching all of the required curriculum that I forget all about community building. During our letter writing unit, the students draw names and write friendly letters to classmates. I think that classroom compliments would be great because it is all year long, not just during a specific unit.

  13. Thank you so much for all the ideas and freebies. MUCH appreciated!

  14. I love the compliments idea! It's similar to bucket filling, which I've always had plans of starting, but not as time consuming. At the beginning of the year I always have students make a "me bag" to share about themselves. I introduce the assignment by sharing mine. This helps us all get to know each other.

  15. I love your post! I am excited to get back to school and use some of your ideas. I read a variety of books at the beginning of the year to establish a classroom community. This year I am going to have a sharing circle! Thanks for all the ideas!


  16. Wonderful post, Halle! Just wishlisted your compliment pack! Creating a classroom community is SO important! I do something similar to your classroom compliment pack. I have our student of the week sit in a special chair and we brainstorm a list of compliments about that student. The student is always beaming throughout the experience!

    EduKate and Inspire

  17. I do a lot of community building activities during the first few weeks of school, so students know that we are team. Students interview each other during the first couple of days and present to the class information they find out. I have students share things about themselves. Anything that can build connections!

    Stephanie B

  18. I love implementing classroom community for my SIED students! Every few months or so I make a worksheet where there will be different phrases such as "Name a classmate who helps you with your school work". I tell them they can only use the same name twice and then they are allowed to share with the group. I also play a game called Sparkles more frequently. It involves them getting in a circle and drawing Popsicle sticks with a name (if they get their own, that's ok). They then have to give a compliment to that classmate. It's even a game sometimes in which they describe the student and they have to guess who they have.

  19. Creating a safe, respectful classroom is my number one priority! I also stand at the door in the morning and greet them by name. I also make sure they give me either a hug, high-five or handshake at the end of the day. It's important for them to know that no matter what happened that day, I still love them and will always say, "See you tomorrow!" We also have a community circle both in the morning and afternoon. In the morning, we say good-morning to the person on each side of us by name and talk about how we can be helpful to others or ourselves. In the afternoon we breath in something good that has happened or breathe out something "bad" that has happened (we can't name names with the bad). This is an important time for many students because they feel safe enough to share and can get something off their chest if needed. Lots of discussion happens during these circles. I love it!

  20. Thank you for the freebie. I am looking forward to seeing what the most important things a third grader looks for in a teacher. That should be really interesting.

  21. I love this!! I used to make a construction paper chain of compliments where students would grab a long strip of paper and write a compliment to another student. They would leave it in a designated place in the classroom and whenever we had a few minutes, I would read a couple and add them to our chain. Then, the fire inspector came and said my chain was a no no and couldnt hang from the ceiling anymore so I havent done anything similar since. :(

  22. I love your compliments packet. It's been on my wishlist waiting for TpT to hold a sale (then I can buy lots of stuff!). At the beginning of the year, and throughout the year as refreshers, I do a lot of read alouds about friendship and kindness and how differences are okay. We always have great discussions. At some point in the year, I end up telling my kids they don't have to like everyone, but they should always respect them (they aren't supposed to tell the person they don't like them either). For some of my kids that's freeing - not having to "like" everyone. It makes it easier for them to treat someone kindly.

  23. My class always does the "All About Me" bags which we share over the course of the first week of school. They love it! Hope I win your looks great!!!


  24. I LOVE your idea about the classroom compliments! We do the "All About Me" bags in order to learn something about their classmates. With a special ed inclusion classroom, it is really important to me to build that safe & caring environment for my kids.


  25. I love your class compliments idea. We do bucket fillers but I like the idea of randomly choosing a name and writing a compliment to that classmate. I would love to win your packet!!

  26. I love that you say good morning to each student. I do a morning meeting every single day with my class and part of it is going around the circle and saying good morning to each other. I love love love this part of the day! I would never have known that Kendal HATED vegetables without this! :) I love your idea about compliments each Friday! It goes well with our Bucket Filling we do at the beginning of the year which would continue the idea all year long!

  27. Thank you! I love your ideas and hope my students will love them too!

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