Let’s Create a Class Culture

Creating a culture of thinking means planning for and ensuring there are failures.  The struggle is where true thinking, strategies, and learning is achieved. Here are the steps I take to build the classroom culture using instructional strategies, nontraditional formative assessment and clearly planning the lesson with the end in mind.  

  • Have you defined your WHY?  Simon Sineck, author and motivational speaker defines this clearly and succinctly with Find Your Why.
  • Your goal is to ensure each student is learning, not counting points so you can prove you taught.  I have found the best way to ensure learning is happening is Standards Based Grading.  Start with the State standards.  Define your “power” standards. The ones you determine must be covered then align an activity that allows students to demonstrate they know that standard.  Explain clearly what you want to them to know and do and specifically what that looks like. How they show you they know may be different for each student. Ex. 1

Example 1

Know Do 1 2 3 4 
How to access the core curriculum through online modules Login to Everfi, create account, complete a module.Doesn’t log on or attempts to but gives up Logs on but doesn’t complete work Logs on and answers with minimal assistance Helps others
  • Next, define engagement in your class and communicate that with the students.  I have a sign hanging in my class that says, “I know I am a success when my students become the teacher.”  Is engagement sitting in a row quietly doing worksheets? Not for me. It’s talking, working in groups, my students directing the conversation and feeling comfortable enough to teach and help each other.  It’s also when they do research and challenge the concept I am teaching. Engagement for my students is when they are moving around, working on projects, talking, laughing and most importantly focused on the topic at hand.
  • Once you know why you are teaching, what engagement looks like then pick the standard(s) you will be covering that lesson. What formative assessment you will use to determine learning?  What activities are you building for students to practice the standard using various innovative instructional strategies?  You may have a nearpod presentation first with summative and formative assessment questions as part of the lesson or a think pair and share activity or you may give your independent learners the option to create a presentation or write a paper explaining the standard. The students who already can demonstrate the standard can be a co-teacher as a way you will evaluate and grade their learning for that standard.  Here is an example (Ex. 2) of how I build my lessons daily:




CRP – 12 Work productively in teams while using cultural / global competence  Career-ready individuals positively contribute to every team whether formal or informal. They apply an awareness of cultural differences to avoid barriers to productive and positive interaction. They find ways to increase the engagement and contribution of all team members. They plan and facilitate effective team meetings. 

CRP – 11 Use technology to enhance productivity  

Career-ready individuals readily recognize problems in the workplace, understand the nature of the problem, and devise effective plans to solve the problem. They are aware of problems when they occur and take action quickly to address the problem. They thoughtfully investigate the root cause of the problem prior to introducing solutions. They carefully consider the options to solve the problem. Once a solution is agreed upon, they follow through to ensure the problem is solved, whether through their own actions or the actions of others.  


For students to get to know myself and others to create the class cultures and build a community within my classroom.

 Team building  

Know DO 1 2 3 4 
 On the bell expectations  Puts backpack on the wall, logs into Teams.  Has to be asked to put backpack away and get out technology Has either back pack or technology awayHas both items Is helping others
 CRP – 12 Work productively in teams Teambuilding activity – throw the ball say your name & how many siblings you have. Has to be asked to join Participates but doesn’t catch the ball or won’t answer Joins willingly, catches and answers Leads the group 
 CRP – 11 Use technology to enhance productivity  Use nearpod to team build using their phones. Doesn’t log on Logs in but won’t answer or puts inappropriate responses Joins with assistance and responds appropriately Helps others 

Grade:  8 points (put in grade book) 

The class culture is determined by your students and you.  Know the standard, know what you want the students to do, and how you want them to show you they know; then define what success looks like.  Since I use standards-based grading each standard is worth 4 points. As you see from Example 1; I define what a 1, 2, 3 and 4 looks like for each standard.  This frees the students up to show me what they know in a way that works for them.

Formative assessments can be organic and unique for each student and this process allows for modification and differentiation as a natural part of the process.  It also allows for practice without being penalized. If a student is at a 1, give them clear direction and reassess. If they are already at a 4 then what could be better than being trusted enough to teach other students.

This process is a journey and I encourage you to start this process to create a class culture you and your students enjoy.  I promise it will feel strange as it’s not how we are taught to teach. This is a higher level of critical thinking for teachers to be able to use the theories and strategies you have learned and be flexible enough to adjust it each semester and student. I also promise its worth it!

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