Law N Order

Seven Strategies for Building Positive Classrooms
Carol Gerber Allred

The Positive Action program shows that we can promote academic achievement and build students' character.

Every day as millions of students go to school, their parents and caretakers hope these young people will be treated with care, valued, inspired, and educated. Students hope they will get along with their peers and teachers, have their work measure up, and enjoy the process of learning. These hopes define positive classrooms for parents and students.

Unfortunately, the accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind have created a different definition of positive classrooms for many educators. For them, positive classrooms have come to mean places where students arrive at school ready to learn; work diligently to master academic standards (particularly math and reading); go home and accurately complete homework; and return to school the next day eager to learn more. Often, teachers are so focused on ensuring that students pass achievement tests that they have little or no time to address students' social and emotional needs.

Education has to work for all stakeholders. By implementing the following seven strategies, we can combine the need for positive classrooms that support the whole child with the need for accountability and improved academic performance. The Positive Action program ( has refined these strategies through 26 years of research, evaluation, and development, and has implemented them in more than 13,000 schools.

1. Make Learning Relevant
Students are more engaged in learning and retain knowledge better when they see that it is relevant and vital to their own success and happiness. By discovering students' talents, learning styles, and interests, teachers can adjust teaching methods and strategies. By giving students a say in how the classroom operates, teachers increase students' sense of ownership in the education process.