6 ideas and activities for building classroom culture

You know that old saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”? That’s especially true in the classroom. No matter what behavior management strategies or social cohesion strategies we have in place, it’s the culture that really matters.

And the best definition of culture I’ve heard is this - culture is “how we do things around here”.

That almost sounds too simple right? But for me, it accurately captures why culture is so powerful. Because no matter what we say we stand for, culture is how things really are. Culture plays out in our actions and the things we focus on, celebrate, reward and walk past. 

So with that in mind, today I’m sharing six ideas and activities to build a wonderful classroom culture.

How could you *not* feel welcome walking into @learningwithmissmichellew and @_thehaileynicole’s classrooms!

Tip 1: Give Your Students Ownership of the Classroom Rules

Children learn through ‘doing’ and solving problems - so my first tip is to get your students involved in setting their own classroom rules.

Even if you have rules in mind, use clever questions to guide their discussion in the right direction. 

The left image shows a large display with handwritten classroom rules like ‘be kind always’ and ‘show character.’ The rules are written on a large yellow circle with students' names on narrow strips of paper arranged like sun rays around the circle. The display is fixed to a whiteboard, which is bordered by MJLL Alphabet Posters from the Boho Rainbow range.
The wonderful @lololoveslearning established class expectations with her students on her first day of school - isn’t this display gorgeous? (And shoutout to the MJLL Boho Rainbow range in the background!)

Tip 2: Phrase Your Rules Positively

One of the simplest ways to build a healthy classroom culture is to phrase your rules from a positive stance. For instance - rather than saying ‘no running in the classroom,’ try a positive statement like ‘we walk safely in the classroom.’

With this approach, your rules become statements of who the students are and how they do things. And if culture is ‘how things are done around here,’ then using this approach means your students are literally determining the culture for themselves.

Such a sweet Classroom Jobs Display from @heymrshiggins!

Tip 3: Empower Your Students with Responsibility

Another fantastic way to build culture is to give each student a classroom job. 

From changing the calendar display to picking up the lunch orders (the holiest of all jobs!), they’ll love it, I promise! (And let’s face it, if you can outsource the boring stuff, why not?!)

Such a sweet Classroom Jobs Display from @heymrshiggins!

Jobs give children responsibility and a chance to role model great behavior. When they can get specific, timely and meaningful feedback on the task, they’ll be motivated to continue that wonderful behavior.

And even more powerfully? As kiddos see each other helping, showing kindness and performing acts of service, it’ll help them feel safe among their peers. 

A classroom whiteboard is filled with display items from the Spotty Boho Range. We see a calendar display, a row of alphabet posters, and bunting letters that spell ‘calendar.’ The colours are muted neutrals, blues, browns and dusty pinks. There’s also a cane armchair and a light grey and white rug in the corner of the image.
The job of updating the whiteboard displays is always a firm favorite among students! Such a gorgeous display from @ateacherwithaplan using the Spotty Boho range.

Tip 4: Ditch the Behavior Charts

As Oprah would say - when you know better, you do better! And recently? I stopped including behavior charts in my decor bundles.

Research has shown that not only are they ineffective, but they can even be hurtful. Rather than promoting self-regulation, they promote shame and embarrassment. 

These items from the Boho Vibes and Spotty Boho ranges are based on the ethos that when you celebrate a behavior, you receive it back in spades.

Behavior charts promote compliance, but to create a class with a healthy culture, we’re better off teaching and learning self-management techniques, self-reflection and empathy. These skills are invaluable right from kindergarten, to middle school, high school and beyond.

I still remember that red-faced feeling of seeing my name written on the whiteboard as punishment. Whether I was talking, daydreaming (or singing, hehe) the shame of that whiteboard was never effective.

Knowing myself as I do now, I suspect I would’ve changed my behavior if my teacher quietly explained the impact of my disruptive behavior on my peers. 

But in all honesty? Nothing could have stopped me from daydreaming! 

These Spotty Brights resources from @missbennett_teaches’ and @teachwith.misbryant could certainly help create a warm and welcoming classroom!

Tip 5: Create a Place for Everyone

A sense of belonging is central to a safe and inclusive culture. And that's where one of my BIGGEST beliefs comes in - classroom decor is about so much more than just looking good. 

Whether it’s seeing their name on a door display, their label on a locker, or their work hanging proudly on the wall, decor can help students feel a part of a community. 

Nothing beats seeing the joy of kiddos locating their names throughout a classroom. Both of these items are from the gorgeous Modern Rainbow range.


And because my resources are all editable, you can customize them to suit the needs of your students in thoughtful and simple ways.

What a divine example of clever customisation! Love what you’ve done with the Spotty Brights/Pastels Alphabet Posters @heyteachermeg!

Tip 6: It’s the Little Things

You’ll notice that all of these tips can form part of your everyday routines - and that’s entirely intentional. Simple daily actions - like the gorgeous morning greeting below - really set the tone throughout a school year.


Adore everything about this! Video via @humankind.
(The OG creator - this wonderful teacher! - is unknown.)

Embedding positivity into the everyday will create a positive classroom culture that feels welcoming, inclusive and loving. And there’s no better culture than that!

Need help choosing the resources I’ve featured above? I’m only a DM away!


6 ideas and activities for building classroom culture - Miss Jacobs Little Learners

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