Classroom Culture

Start the Day With a Smile

Every Morning I stand at my door, smile, and greet each student by name.


“Success for one is success for all.” 

I teach this to my students at the beginning of the year and then point it out whenever I see it happen.


“Ninja Feet”

When I taught 3rd grade I read the book Small Steps to my class every year. It is a true story about a girl who had Polio and how she learned to walk again. From that book I picked up the idea to help students learn to walk properly instead of shuffling/smacking their feet or walking on the balls of their feet. In first grade, after I teach them to walk with their heel hitting the floor first and then rolling to their toe, I tell them this is how Ninjas walk so as not to be heard.  First graders love this.  Now all I have to say is “Ninja Feet” and they walk correctly.


“Nose on your face”

One of my social skills lessons at the beginning of the year is “Nose on your face”. We talk about how everyone has bad days or moments that they are upset. When we are walking in the hall and someone is having a hard time we need to keep our “Nose on our face”, meaning look forward to give the struggling person privacy. My students know if I say that phrase or touch my nose that is what they should do.


“Hands in your comfortable place”

When walking down the hall my student may choose hands in pockets, behind their back, by their side or held together in front. This gives them choice and helps them from touching others.


“Tall Mountains” and “Roll your mountain shoulders”

To get students ready to leave the classroom or to get their attention I say, “Tall mountains”. They make their body tall and quiet.  Then if they are not quite ready I say, “Roll your mountain shoulders” and this gives them focus and relieves stress.

 Walking in the Hall

At the beginning of the year we work hard to establish hallway courtesy. It isn’t about making students march down the hall but more about respecting other classrooms and not taking up the whole hallway. The class has established places to stop when going to different locations. My line leader is the only one to look back toward me, (because I almost always walk at the end of the line), to see my hand signal if they are to go on to the next stopping point.



I only allow one student to use the restroom at a time. So as not to have interruptions during teaching they hold up their hand making the letter “R” in sign language to ask to leave the room. One thing that my students learn is to look for appropriate times to use the restroom. While I am teaching it should be an emergency situation.  My mini lessons are no more than 10 minutes so this is a reasonable expectation.



I can’t say enough about how yoga helps all people with stress and creating a peaceful feeling throughout your body. We do 5-10 minutes of yoga everyday.



Jobs (Click for organizer)

Have your students come up with jobs that they can do every day to keep the classroom running smoothly. I often guide them toward ones that I know  we need.  Then they make signs for each job. I rotate the students through the jobs. If students feel ownership of the classroom they will keep it looking nice. Here are the jobs I have in my classroom:

Teacher Assistant          Line Leader          Calendar          Book Keeper

Door Holder          Tech. Control          Electrical Engineer (lights)

Paper Passer          Graph Organizer          Board Eraser

Rug Wrangler (Keep area rugs straight)          Recess Equipment

Chair Chaser (push in chairs)          Trash Collector          Supply Organizer

Sink Soaker (We have breakfast in the classroom and have to dump any milk that isn’t consumed down the drain. If you don’t rinse the sink it starts to smell.)

Breakfast Clean Up (Again, breakfast in the room means that when we are done I have one person get a baby wipe and clean up any messes.)

Carpet Caretaker (Clean up floor)          Yoga Leaders (2)

Substitute (Fill in when someone is absent)


Every table has a captain for the week.  This student gets to sit on a special cushion and is the person that does whatever I need them to do. I will ask them to get papers for their table, collect items from their table, pass out books, check papers for name, etc. This is one of the best things I ever did for helping my class to run smoothly. I teach them about “clockwise” by having them rotate the captain cushion to the next person clockwise.