Monday Mojo: Classroom Culture

Sharpen the Saw

This very first segment of Sharpen the Saw is about the power of remembering: remembering that every kid who walks through your door has a story, remembering that every kid should be called by name, and remembering that the human brain is designed to learn if we create the right conditions. Establishing our classroom culture will be one of the most important things we do this year.  If you've been teaching awhile, you probably have a few go-to activities you typically kick off the year with, but consider trying something new.  Whether this year's students will be your first crew or whether you've had more than 2,000 kids walk through your door, do something new to get to know this year's unique group of students.  See through a fresh lens. 

Teacher Clint Smith passionately shares in this 4-minute Ted Talk the four core principles he shares with his students in order to help them find their voice, a great reminder of how our relationships with students can ultimately impact how they see themselves as worthy or unworthy, at-promise or at-risk, going somewhere or going nowhere. 

Lastly, taking time to build relationships with your students will pay off all year long.  Explore the ASCD article "What Empathy Can Do" for some timeless reminders about the power of investing in relationships with your students. 

Digital Digest

Use Google Tour Builder to create a photo story using the power of Google maps, photos, video, and text.  Get to know students as they create a personal google tour about the significant places, people and events in their life.

Remind 2 Me allows users to compose an email and have it delivered at a later date. Students could write a letter to self about their goals and plans for this school year and have it delivered to their email near the end of the trimester, semester, or school year.

You know it's coming. In a few weeks, those same few students will be the only ones raising their hands.  Prevent the engagement drop-off by setting the tone early that everyone shares.  Use an app like Chwazi available for Apple and Android mobile devices or Virtual Dice to randomly select students or groups to share ideas with the class.

Trade Secrets 

It begins with asking! What questions will you ask to get to know your students? Football coach Chad Frigon checks in weekly with his football players using a google form to keep in touch with how things are going on the field and in the classroom.  This quick check gives him a pulse on his players even during the off-season. 

Spanish teacher Charity Stephens added a few questions to her student survey that have created insight into student needs and wants. 

Band Director Eddie Owen uses Twitter as one way to connect with students by sharing a little birthday shout-out! 

Educator Fred Jones blogs at Education World and has a series of articles to foster strong classroom culture and management.

Educator Zaretta Hammond is passionate about culturally responsive pedagogy and shares tips for creating classrooms where all students belong. Explore her blog Ready 4 Rigor or connect with her on Twitter.

Thanks for reading this week's Monday Mojo! Do you have an idea related to classroom culture to share?  Please add it to the comments feed below.  If you have a topic you'd like to see covered, email Sara


  1. This Ted Talk video is outstanding, Sara! How important to think of the problems of remaining silent.


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