Classroom Atmosphere Part I

Classroom Atmosphere Part I
November 2001
Working Together for Catholic Education
The Eastern Ontario Catholic Curriculum Cooperative would like to acknowledge the creativity and hard
work of the members of the Classroom Management Document. Thanks is extended to Dale
Henderson, Project Manager, Ottawa-Carleton Catholic District School Board; Tammy Clune, Catholic
District School Board of Eastern Ontario, Stephanie Froats, Renfrew County Catholic District School
Board, Michael Arsenault, Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.
The support document, Classroom Management, was initiated to extend material developed through the
Elementary Curriculum Unit Project; Implementation Support Document, 2001. Classroom management
involves elements of planning, preparation, positive reinforcement and collaboration between teachers,
students and parents.
Planning for meaningful learning experiences based on enduring understandings will assist teachers
both in straight or combined grade classes. Teachers may find it helpful to use the Journey Activities
document with the Learning Continuum sheets contained in the Implementation Support Document to
make those meaningful connections, establish prior learning/enduring understandings, and design
learning activities necessary to prepare students for subsequent learning stages.
This Classroom Management resource will serve as a foundation of quality approaches, best practice
and sound theory. The development process involved examining current research and shared
experience from educators. We welcome you to develop the suggestions and consider your own
approaches to managing your program.
Gerry Bibby, Executive Director of EOCCC
© Copyright 2005 Eastern Ontario Catholic Curriculum Cooperative
It is the policy of the Eastern Ontario Catholic Curriculum Cooperative to make one copy of each
document available at no cost, to each member board and to the other Ontario Catholic Cooperatives.
Permission is granted to the three Ontario Catholic Curriculum Cooperatives to duplicate and distribute
any portions of this resource for non-commercial and/or educational purposes only, by first purchasing
original copies of each for their schools, acknowledging the source.
The writers have attempted to acknowledge all original sources of information. Should you locate an item
for which no acknowledgement is included, please advise the Cooperative immediately.
Table of Contents
Classroom Atmosphere
Infusion of Catholicity
Collaborative Culture
Shared Ownership
Role of the Teacher
Role of the Family
Role of the Student
Communicating with Parents and Students
Enabling the Learner
Cultivating Shared Ownership
Teaching and Learning Styles
Making Accommodations
Characteristics of the Learner
Instructional Strategies
Long Range Planning
Unit Planning
Planning with the Curriculum Planner
Sample Templates
The Learning Environment
Classroom Organization
Learning Centres
Grouping Strategies
I. Classoom Atmosphere
Infusion of Catholicity
Collaborative Culture
Shared Ownership
Role of the Teacher
Role of the Family
Role of the Student
Communicating with Parents and Students
Classroom Atmosphere
Infusion of Catholicity
Sustained by our spiritual vision, we can keep on,
knowing that sometimes we sow, other times we
water, and God “gives the growth”. (Corinthians 3:
Thomas Groome
Our goal, as Catholic educators is “to promote and maintain
Catholic schools animated by the Gospel and reflecting the
tenants of the Catholic faith.” (ICE, Ontario Catholic School
Graduate Expectations). As Catholic educators who have
accepted the invitation to follow Jesus Christ, we do this by
teaching the students about Jesus Christ so that they too can
accept the invitation. “Catholic schools must be places where
students can hear Jesus’ invitation to follow him, where they can
realize his presence and his promise to be with them always.”1
Therefore, Catholic schools are both places of learning and
places of believing.
Teachers in Ontario Catholic schools use the Ontario Catholic
School Catholic Graduate Expectations “to make decisions
concerning program planning, instructional strategies,
evaluation, and assessment.”
(ICE) The Catholic School
Graduate Expectations (CGE) provide a greater purpose for
knowledge, skills, and applications mandated by curriculum
policy documents. “It is not simply enough to insert (these)
theological characteristics abstractly into existing curriculum.
They are the raison d’etre of our Catholic education system, and
must permeate everything we do in our Catholic schools.”2
Every learning activity, planned by every teacher, should help
students become the kind of graduate envisioned by these
expectations. The Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Unit
Planner contains the CGEs for Catholic curriculum writers to
use in their planning and writing of curriculum units. All units
created specifically for Catholic schools should meet various
CGEs as well as the Ministry expectations.
Additional information on the Ontario
Curriculum Planner
is available in
Chapter VI.
Catholic education views human life as an integration
of body, mind, and spirit. Rooted in this vision,
Catholic education fosters the search for knowledge
as a lifelong spiritual and academic quest. The
expectations of Catholic graduates, therefore, are
described not only in terms of knowledge and skills,
but in terms of values, attitudes, and actions.
Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations
Institute for Catholic Education
Holistic education, educating the body, soul, and the mind, is the
thrust of the CGE. The seven components of holistic education
1. discerning believer
2. effective communicator
3. reflective thinker
4. life-long learner
5. collaborative contributor
6. caring family member
7. responsible citizen
When designing or implementing curricula, teachers must ask
themselves, Do the planned activities help students grow in the
direction envisioned by the CGE? Do the planned learning
activities help students become Catholic graduates?
See Figure 1.1 - Working From The Catholic Graduate
Expectations Action Template.
Collaborative Culture
A community is a group of men and women who
found the truth in Christ and in His gospel and who
follow the truth and join together to follow it more
strongly. In the group, each one finds that the
brother or sister is a source of strength and that in
moments of weakness they help one another and, by
loving one another and believing, they give light and
Archbishop Oscar Romero
Walk into any classroom and you will find that it is like no other.
Every classroom is unique, having its own culture, values, and
Early in the year, the classroom community is shaped and built,
creating a predictable, safe environment for students to learn and
interact with each other. The classroom culture cannot be
anticipated or determined prior to the beginning of the school
year. It must evolve out of the shared interests, values, and
goals of the students. However, teachers can begin to lay the
foundation for the classroom community prior to the
commencement of the new school year. Preparing for the
students’ arrival can tell children what you expect and value.
Bulletin boards, classroom arrangements and displays, name
cards for children’s desks and hooks, and even desk
arrangement tell students and parents a little about your teaching
style, interests, and preferences.
When students arrive on the first day of school, teachers must
implement the routines and expectations that he/she has
envisioned immediately. Students, like all children, want to know
the boundaries of the behavioural expectations. Boundaries
make children feel safe because they know what they and others
can and cannot do within those boundaries. Teachers must have
a clear idea of what their classroom will look like behaviourally
before the first student arrives.
Teachers and students should decide on a few class rules that
everyone is expected to follow. “The teacher’s ability to act on
those rules will determine whether or not the rules make a
difference.”3 Most teachers will need to have a direct discussion
with students of the behavioural expectations.
This, in
combination with the way the teacher responds to a student’s
failure to comply with behavioural expectations, will set the tone
for the year. Some considerations for a class discussion of the
code of behaviour are:
Aim for five rules or less.
Establish a rationale for each rule.
Explain ambiguous terms. For example, explain
what “Use your inside voice” means.
Ensure that roles and responsibilities are learned.
State the rules in positive terms. For example,
“Treat each other with respect.” Rather than, “Don’t
put each other down.”
“A classroom community enables
teachers to address
children’s basic
needs, promote
their resilience to
hardship conditions,
teach the values of
respect and responsibility, and foster
their social and
academic competence.” 4
“The challenge in
setting up every
classroom is to
make everything in
the space promote
the behaviours and
learning outcomes
which are desired.”5
“Effective teachers
know that what they
do during the first
two weeks of the
school year sets the
vision for the rest of
the year. Once that
two-week window
closes it becomes
increasingly difficult
to alter the norms
that are being established.” 6
Shared Ownership
A classroom is a shared environment. Students, teachers, and
educational assistants share a common workplace for five or six
hours a day. Therefore, everyone is responsible for ensuring that
that workplace is one in which everyone contributes to its vitality
and success.
“What happens in
class is a responsibility which should
be shared among
students, their parents, the school,
and the
teacher.” (Gruber,
p. 13)
As we get older, more and more responsibility is placed on us.
Even at an early age, we had some responsibilities: feeding the
dog, cleaning our rooms, and helping with the dishes.
Responsibility-taking is a learned process. Therefore, we should
be teaching students to take responsibility for their own schooling
so that they can be competent, independent decision-makers.
Teaching students to be life-long learners and to take
responsibility for their own learning is essential in today’s society.
Our children are our future. We want to equip them with the skills
that they will need to function in their working adult lives.
One way to achieve this is through facilitative leadership
(Freiberg). Facilitative leadership promotes shared decisions. A
facilitative teacher involves others, students, parents, colleagues,
and the community, in the learning process. Freiberg believes
that students process learning faster and at a deeper level if they
have made choices. They become more competent directors of
their future learning if they have had some responsibility in
choosing some aspects of their learning. For example, students
should be involved in establishing a code of behaviour for the
classroom. In addition, they should have input as to the
consequences of failing to abide by the code of behaviour.
Internalizing the rules through a democratic process of creating
them helps to ensure that students see the inherent value in
having a set of standards in the first place.
Both students and teachers must take ownership of the learning
that takes place in the classroom. For example, many teachers
assign jobs to individual students on a rotational, weekly basis.
By having the students take responsibility for the care and
cleanliness of the environment ensures that they will treat it with
respect. Students are experts at ensuring that other students do
the same. It involves the students in the daily activities of the
classroom routine – not to mention that it saves the teacher a
tremendous amount of work.
Older students can take
responsibility for creating and putting up bulletin boards, taking
attendance, handling milk money, designing a class or school
newsletter, and for tracking intra-murals sports results. Younger
Learning and
Learning Strategies
students can take some responsibility for cleaning chalk brushes,
distributing workbooks, dusting low shelves, and taking notes to
the office. Most students are eager to help. Others must be
encouraged to do so. In the end, everyone benefits – the teacher
is relieved of some of the duties and the students learn valuable
organization skills and responsibility-taking that they will need to
function as an adult in society.
Role of the Teacher
In education, all of the stakeholders share the same goals: to
help children become life-long learners and socially competent
members of their community.
In the end, the mind of the teacher is the most
powerful influence in any classroom. What she
knows and believes about children will create the
atmosphere affecting their learning. What she does
in every single situation originates in what she
Alice Yardley
Teachers and students have complementary responsibilities.
Teachers are responsible for developing a range of instructional
strategies based on sound learning theory. They need to address
different student needs and bring enthusiasm and a variety of
teaching approaches to the classroom. Good teachers know that
they must persevere and make every reasonable attempt to
ensure sound learning for every student.
The teacher’s role is to foster a love of learning in her students.
In order to love learning, students need to be motivated to learn
by an effective teacher. An effective teacher is interested in kids,
knows learners as people rather than students, helps learners
come to own their knowledge, cultivates humour and spontaneity,
explains why you do things and shows the logic, encourages
questions, and tests the work of the classroom against work in
the world outside. 7 To be an effective educator:
Know as much as you can about your students.
Know about assessment and evaluation.
Know about the subjects you are teaching.
Know about the Catholic Graduate Expectations.
Know about the Ontario curricula.
Catholic Educator’s
Resource Centre—
Lesson Plans
A parent-child-teacher relationship is integral to the education of
students. Open communication between the parent and teacher
fosters a solid, consistent parents of students a teacher must
understand the parents’ past experiences with the school system.
If they have not had a positive experience, they may feel left out
of their child’s education and distrustful of the teachers.
“…parents are your friends. Show your interest in a child and
parents are on your side. Be casual, off-handed, be cold toward
the child and parents can never work closely with you…To touch
the child is to touch the parent. To praise the child is to praise
the parent. To criticize the child is to hit at the parent. The two
are two, but the two are one.” 8
How the Teacher
Role is Changing
1. The Changing
Role of the
2. The Changing
Role of the
Parents look to teachers for ways in which they can help their
child succeed in school. They ask for ideas for helping their child
improve his or her reading skills, math skills, and social skills.
They ask for help in choosing an appropriate novel for their child.
Parents seek reassurance that they are ‘doing the right thing’
when helping their child with schoolwork. As educators, it is our
responsibility to ensure that parents feel that their efforts are
appreciated, valued, and respected. This makes it more likely
that parents will continue to support their child’s progress in
school and keep the lines of communication open.
Administrators play a vital role in establishing and supporting
positive school-home relationships.
“By creating a school
atmosphere that welcomes parents and all family members, and
by recognizing the importance of effective relationships with
parents, administrators enable staff to feel positive and
enthusiastic about involving parents.” 9
“Teachers and
schools that view
families as partners
in the educational
process become
better schools.” 10
Role of the Parent and Family
Studies show that students perform better in school if their
parents are involved in their education. Parents therefore
have an important role to play in supporting their child’s
learning. By reading the curriculum, parents can see what
their children are learning in each grade and why they are
learning it.
This awareness will enable parents to
communicate with teachers, to offer useful information,
and to ask relevant questions about their child’s progress.
The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Language. Ministry
of Education, 1997
“Learning is most successful when students, parents/guardians,
and teachers communicate and work together.” 11 Children bring
their families to school through the stories they tell. They want to
tell you about themselves and their family experiences. “Families
are already part of your classroom community. Children do not
enter into your classroom alone; they bring their families with
them.” 12
Parents can become involved in many aspects of their child’s
education. As a teacher, you can involve parents by encouraging
them to: accompany the class on field trips, become involved in
school council, assist small group reading, develop with students
a class newsletter, co-teach computers, put on a Physical
Education clinic in basketball, head-up the baking of birthday
cakes for student birthdays, maintain the class book order club,
participate in parent conferences, attend information sessions,
and speak to the class as a guest speaker (e.g., fire fighter,
police officer, or dietitian).
As teachers we must remember that every parent wants his or
her child to succeed. It is our job to help parents become vital
contributors to their child’s success.
Role of the Student
Studies show that home factors and family experiences continue
to exert a powerful influence on children’s success in school.
Children spend more of their time learning outside of school.
Therefore, learning to take responsibility for one’s progress and
learning, especially outside of the school walls, is an important
part of education for every student.
Students also have responsibilities, which increase as they
advance through elementary and secondary school. Good
students have learned that attention and a willingness to work
hard will enable them to develop the skills, knowledge, creativity,
and personal qualities that good programs can foster. Some
young people face extra challenges and may be growing up in
environments that provide little or no support. For these students,
taking responsibility for learning may be more difficult, and the
patience and encouragement of sensitive teachers may be an
extremely important factor for success. Nonetheless, learning to
take responsibility for one's progress and learning is an important
part of education for every student.
Communicating with Parents and Students
Keeping open communication lines between families and school
is essential to any home-school relationship. “Many factors
influence the effectiveness of communication: language, literacy
levels, listening skills, voice tone, cultural expectations, values,
and beliefs, and body language.”21 There are many ways to
communicate with parents including newsletters, checklists,
notes, telephone calls, e-mail, student agenda books,
correspondence books/logs for some students, workshops (afterschool), and interviews. Any written form of communication
should be followed by personal contact to ensure that the
parent(s) have understood the message and to give them the
opportunity to ask questions.
See Figure 1.2—Sample Letter to Parents
Establishing a trusting, respectful relationship with parents
through open communication takes time. Body language and
tone of voice conveys more information to a person than do the
words spoken. Often, misunderstandings occur when the words
spoken do not match the body language and tone of voice of the
When communicating with a parent, look directly at him
or her, smile, and use appropriate body language to
show that you are interested in the conversation.
Try to understand the parent’s point of view. Listen
Speak clearly avoiding educational language that a
parent may not understand.
Respect cultural differences between yourself and the
parents. You may not agree with their views but do not
judge them.
At the end of an interview, say something positive about
the child. Parents will leave on a positive note.
When sending home written notes, be sure that the vocabulary
that you use is easily understood.
Literacy organizations
recommend the following14
Use short, easy, familiar words.
Avoid long introductions – get to the point.
Keep sentences short (no more than 20 words) and try
to avoid words with multi-syllables.
Write in logical order (who, what, where, when, why, and
Be direct – use “you” instead of “parents”.
Use the active voice – “Please join us” rather than ”Your
participation is encouraged.”
Avoid jargon or abbreviations that parents might not
Use pictures and headings to break up text.
Have written communication translated for families who
do not speak English.
Teachers should communicate with every student every day.
With some students demanding so much of our energy and time,
it is easy to overlook the shy, quiet students. These students
need as much of our undivided attention as any other student.
As educators we “have a responsibility to inform students about
the significance of assessment in the teaching/learning cycle and
their role in this process.”15 This enables students to see the
connections between the expectations, learning activities, and
the assessment process. In knowing what will be assessed prior
to beginning a learning task, students can set personal targets for
achieving a certain level of performance. They can assess their
own work based on the same criteria as the teacher.
Students should be made aware of the expectations that they will
be addressing prior to a unit of study or lesson. Teachers must
communicate to them what they must do to achieve a Level 3
Provincial Standard. Teachers may show previous student work
samples or other visuals as references for the students. This
information is not inherent in the teaching of the unit – students
must be told in advance.
Communication throughout a unit enables students to monitor
and adjust their performance to meet their goals. Regular
feedback in the form of notes, discussions, journals, and rubrics
enables students to find areas for improvement. Teachers can
also offer suggestions as to what the student must demonstrate
to achieve at a higher level.
Conferencing with individual students, while time-consuming, can
provide valuable information for both the student and the teacher.
This one-on-one interaction allows for more in-depth analysis of a
student’s thought processes which enables both parties to find
the best strategy for performance improvement. Journals are
another more private form of communication between students
and teachers.
Communication is the key. Students need to know where they
are going, and what they need to get there so that they will know
when they have arrived.
Figure 1.1
Working From Catholic Graduate Expectations:
Action Template
Description of Activity
Expected Result
Details and Special Considerations
Follow up
Reprinted with permission of the Institute for Catholic Education
Figure 1.2
November 15, 2001
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones:
In mathematics, our Grade 1 class is learning about the passage of time and how to
tell time using an analog clock. Joshua seems to enjoy the unit activities and can tell
time accurately to the hour.
Joshua is having some difficulty telling time to the half hour and writing time. I would
like to schedule a short meeting for us to discuss strategies to help Joshua learn and
master these concepts.
Please choose two dates and times that are suitable for you and I will call you to
confirm the date and time. I am available to meet from 8:00 a.m. – 8:55 a.m., 11:00
a.m. – 11:35 a.m., and 3:25 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. If these times are not convenient, we
can schedule a later or earlier meeting.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Mrs. L. Smith
Please cut and return the bottom portion to Mrs. Smith as soon as possible.
I prefer to meet to discuss Joshua’s math progress:
Choice 1 ___________________________
Choice 2 ___________________________
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