10 Culture Building Activities for Teachers

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My favorite part of the school year has always been the first day of school. There is always something special about seeing all of the professional development, bulletin boards, parent letters, classroom organization and school spirit come together for the students.

My favorite part of the school year has always been the first day of school. There is always something special about seeing all of the professional development, bulletin boards, parent letters, classroom organization and school spirit come together for the students.

Often, my colleagues and I would spend the days leading up to students arriving practicing our classroom chants, making posters and labeling everything in sight. We did all of these things as I believe they help to structure and supplement the school culture when school begins. But continuing that structure is paramount for success throughout the year.

The environment where young people learn is really important for their success. School administrators aim to create a space with highly engaged students and staff, minimal disciplinary actions, and high attendance because it directly impacts student achievement. School culture is a manifestation of that vision that includes the values and traditions that are central to the school community.

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Teachers are equally as responsible for setting up a positive school culture for students. Teachers can implement hands-on activities, classroom traditions and other ways to encourage student-centered instruction. In my early years as an educator, I would focus on building positive classroom culture as it impacted how I could engage my students.

The fun part about culture building activities for my students was that it gave us all the space to be creative. I learned a lot about what students valued and how I could encourage each of them to share and honor the values of others. Some of my most productive classroom environments were set up under the guidance of my students. This created a shared investment in our learning and in our space.

No matter how many years you have been a teacher, there are always new ways to continue to build a positive culture in your classroom and your school.

10 Culture Building Activities 

Review school data

Teachers should take the time to review school data alongside the school leadership team. This could be done in professional learning communities or in a smaller group with a teacher coach. This information informs the focus areas and goals for the coming school year. What worked well in the past? What could be better in the coming year?

Create Displays

Bulletin boards, shadow boxes, banners, and posters are all great presentation tools. Use these to display school values, beliefs and rules. Students can work in groups to discuss and design a poster with classroom rules that could be shared with the larger school population. Having students own their work and share with others increases investment.

Host a family event

Choose a time (or multiple times) that parents or guardians can come by the school and meet the teachers or join a classroom activity. Welcome family units by inviting them to participate in a school event highlighting the importance of their involvement.

Develop community norms

Together with your students, decide what the norms will be for your classroom. In small groups, allow students to build recommendations for incentives for good behavior or rules for the classroom. Building community investment will encourage a shared responsibility amongst the students.

Recite a mantra

As a teacher I used a really simple mantra to start our day. Together we recited “Today is a new day to learn, laugh and explore. I will ask big questions, ask for help and share my thoughts. Today is a new day and I am ready to begin.” It was our reminder that we can be successful, that school was a place of learning and fun. I expected the entire class to recite this in the morning so we could set the tone for the day.

Plan 1-on-1 time with each student

As a way to learn more about your students, build in specific time to get to know them. This could be having lunch with them or inviting them to read with you individually. The culture of the school is linked to the relationships among staff and students. This builds trust.

Classroom celebrations

Build in mini-celebrations throughout the school year to celebrate accomplishments. These traditions can celebrate small or big wins for the students. Perhaps there is a culminating event highlighting the weekly goals of the students. Creating these celebratory moments serves as a reset for students and helps with shifting the energy towards positive accomplishments.

Model the behavior

At the start of the year, plan to do skits or role plays with students to model the behaviors expected in the classroom. This could be a fun way to practice their drama skills but also engage in experiential learning. It is always fun to see kids use their talents and thinking skills in an engaging classroom performance.

Host a Morning or Afternoon meeting

Group meetings allow for a time to open or close the day as a group. What is awesome about this is that you can encourage students to take the lead. Perhaps they can share positive things from their day, share feedback, or say something that they learned. A class meeting is an opportunity for students to be leaders in their learning space and engage with others in non-academic content.

Repeat all of your efforts

Culture building at your school doesn’t happen with one activity or one meeting. The more times you can create opportunities for meaningful parent involvement, give students agency in their norms, celebrate wins and implement mantras, the better. This emphasizes the importance of the school community throughout the year.

Students and families have some awesome ideas and contributions for the school community. Use their input to inform how you build and develop school culture. Including them in activities gives them agency over the learning environment. School culture is a combination of the attitudes and behaviors of the teachers and students. This impacts how students engage with each other and respond to their school experience. As a teacher you are instrumental in guiding the activities that impact the school culture.