Creating an Inspiring & Engaging Classroom

What to look for in this infographic

Goals are necessary but not sufficient to create an inspiring classroom. Sure, goals are essential. Teachers need to know where they want to go in order to select the best strategies to get there. And goals work just fine when you are operating in isolation.

Goals are significantly more complicated, however, when other people are involved – and teaching certainly involves working with others. Just because a teacher has a nicely articulated set of goals doesn’t mean she can easily turn them into reality. In all likelihood, she has 20-30 students in her classroom and there’s no reason to believe they have the same goals for the time that they will be together. Establishing your goal is a good starting point, but it’s not enough when success ultimately depends upon a group working collaboratively.

What does this mean for the classroom teacher? Make it your priority to establish a shared vision of success with your students. When everyone is motivated to achieve the same thing, success is attainable. When you don’t take the time to establish a shared vision with your students, they might be motivated to achieve a very different set of goals from yours and you’ll encounter lots of unnecessary conflict.

Let me describe the process so you can use it immediately.

Building a Shared Vision of an Inspiring Classroom: The Process

1. Begin by asking your students if they want to have a successful experience in your class.

2. Define “successful” by explaining you want the classroom to be a productive, enjoyable environment. Ask them if they want that as well.

3. Once the students affirm that they define success as you do – productive and enjoyable – say something like this: “Since we want the same thing, we have a shared vision for this class and can make this a great class. We just need to get more specific.”

4.Divide the class into groups of four or five students each. Give each group a piece of chart paper and some markers.

5.Draw a circle on the board at the front of the room. Tell the class, “This circle represents what we want – an inspiring classroom where we can enjoy ourselves and be productive. In this circle, we are going to identify those things that we should do and qualities we should display that will help create the class we want.” Depending upon the age and ability of your students, you might want to provide some examples like “being prepared for class” and “respect.” Give the students about ten minutes to work in their groups. Note: Don’t give too many examples. The success of this activity requires that students be active participants in what you create.

6. Have each group share what they put in their “inspiring classroom” circle. Expect a lot of repetition. Those items that are noted by some groups but not others need to be considered by the whole class. If the class decides to include the item, add it to your composite circle. Leave out those items that are not endorsed by the whole class.

7. If you have too many items or some are redundant (i.e. “be on time” and “be prompt”), combine and cluster items.

8. Return to the board and draw a rectangle at the base of the circle. Say, “We have done a great job identifying the values and the behaviors to create a productive, enjoyable class. Now it’s time to look at some things that can get in our way. Think of things that will make it difficult for us to have the classroom we want. Things like ‘making fun of others’ or ‘cheating.’ In your groups, draw a rectangle and identify things to avoid.” Give the student five to ten minutes to do this.

9. Follow the same procedure you used for the inspiring classroom circle and create a composite list of behaviors to avoid.

10. End by saying, “I will get this typed and copied for us to look at as a group tomorrow.”


The next day, distribute a printed “inspiring classroom” chart to each student and say, “I have compiled everything we agreed to yesterday. Let’s take a few minutes to review what we created.” Quickly review everything you have in both the circle and rectangle. “If we do the things in the circle and avoid things in the rectangle, will we have the kind of classroom we want: one where we can be productive and enjoy ourselves?” Once the students agree that this is what they want and their inspiring classroom chart offers them a blueprint for success, end the discussion by saying, “OK. We know what we want. We know what we need to do. Let’s do it!”

• Note: Your use of language is important. I often use words and phrases like, “enjoy ourselves and be productive,” “the kind of classroom we want,” etc. Even though it’s repetitious, it’s helpful for students to connect “success” with “being productive” and pairing “being productive” with “enjoying ourselves.” By repeatedly talking about “the kind of classroom we want,” you are tapping into the internal motivation of your students. We are all internally motivated by what we want. The artful use of language can help students stay conscious about what it is that they want when they are in your classroom.

Refer to your inspiring classroom chart on a regular basis. Have students keep their copy of the chart in their binder. Enlarge the chart and post it in a prominent place in the classroom so it’s something they see every day when they enter the room. Rather than wait until you have major problems, as soon as you notice students engaging in unwanted behaviors, have them look at their charts to remind themselves of what they really want in your class. This will help them stay appropriately focused and prevent minor problems from becoming major distractions.


Do yourself a favor. Don’t just set goals for yourself. Take the next step. Build a shared vision with your students of an inspiring classroom, one characterized by enjoyment and productivity. It takes very little time and this collaborative process will pay dividends.

Note: This material was excerpted from “Beyond Goals: Creating an Inspiring Classroom 

About the author -

Eric Cohen

Eric Cohen founded Funderstanding in 1994, a product of his passion for active and inspired learning. His day job is at a2xconsulting, where he helps small companies grow into big companies. He lives in NJ with his wife, 2 kids, dog - and his ever growing collection of fine whisky, good movies, and baseball books.

41 Responses to Creating an Inspiring & Engaging Classroom

  1. samia ismael says:

    A very wonderful subject, I hope that there will be other procedures that I can follow to improve my students levels

    • Eva says:

      I wish I could feel the same way! I need to find that sense of positivity that you have, and I suolhd be able to. A lot of the time, I find this through my writing, and blogging has especially helped.Great blog!

      • Habiba says:

        After seeing this video, I couln’t ressit myself from posting it here Its awesome . In my life i failed many times and most often i give up but this video has changed my mind .

        • Agku says:

          Jayme, thanks for the input. I’ve reesivd my learning outcomes based on your feedback and trimmed them down to three. See what you think of these:At the end of this course, students will be able to:•Articulate humanity’s historical relationship to energy including building a timeline showing the transitions•Describe and discuss the current U.S. and world energy situations and develop a U.S. energy plan for the future•Create and deliver presentations that teach course material to other students leading to mastery of online learning technologies and software

        • Takafumi says:

          no response from prsecosor selected path/node DiagnosticStatus failed 0 4. Any hints. I had it earlier in the class program and had it working at one time. I was trying to prove out what I wrote down on paper.ThanksDave H

      • Mohit says:

        I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in wrintig this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade blog post from you in the upcoming also. In fact your creative wrintig abilities has inspired me to get my own web site now. Actually the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a good example of it.

      • Sunny says:

        Forgive me; I’m a procrastinator, I’m chtnieag a bit, and I’ve listed nine Below are the course objectives & learning outcomes listed on the syllabus for my FCS 105: Individual & Family Life Development course and I cannot claim full authorship (I’m new faculty I was told, Don’t try to reinvent the wheel yet ).I like the first three, could do without #4 through #8 as they seem a bit redundant with #2 and #3 (i.e., the roles and responsibilities of all players individual, family, community, etc. , parenting, theoretical foundations, and influences on development should be understood if #1 through #3 are effectively covered). I also like #9, however, I think I would tweak it and put more emphasis on individuals, then families, and finally (maybe) human services professionals I can barely get through individual and family development, let alone human services. Students who complete this course will be able to…1. Distinguish patterns of basic human and family development across the lifespan.2. Evaluate the role of societal trends and issues as they affect development of individuals and families.3. Explain the significance of family for individuals and its impact on the well-being of the individual and society.4. Explain the roles and responsibilities of the individual in family, work and community settings.5. Explain the roles and responsibilities of parenting across the lifespan.6. Use theoretical foundations to describe, analyze, and predict behaviors in individual and family development.7. Distinguish significant influences on individual and family development.8. Recognize the role of human services agencies and professionals as they support individual and family development.9. Recognize variations in personal and diverse beliefs and values (including your own) among human services professionals, and individuals and families they serve.

      • Rachael says:

        Homework for 3/11/2011.I:0/1 Start PBI:0/2 Stop PBB3:0/0 Run FlagO:0/0 Run OutputO:0/1 Signal OutputCreate a program that when you press the Stop PB it turns off the einrte program or stops the program no matter where in the programs execution it is. If it is in the signaling phase it stops. If it is running the output it stops.By pressing the Start PB the Run Flag sets. Once the run flag is set allow for three seconds to pass then turn on the Run Output. While the three seconds are passing toggle on and off the Signal output every .5 seconds.After writing this program in bit logic then write this utilizing as many block instructions as possible. Examples are MEQ, EQU, AND or MVM, NEW, LIM, TON and CTU.

      • Basha says:

        Hello Web Admin, I notcied that your On-Page SEO is not that great, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notcie that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword .wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at.

    • Vidur says:

      I don’t know is hard to beat, but I like Why? or any other phrase that’ll show insetert, and more importantly, that they’ve broken the paradigm of simply sitting quietly and absorbing what is taught.

      • Maya says:

        Leticia,That was a great response, ecplsialey since you were temporarily thrown off by the AVID question. I wouldn’t stress to much about the delay; this time is extremely busy for high school principals because of graduation. Thanks for the question and your response. I will enter you in for the June drawing for the Road to Teaching book. Of course, I’ll add your questions/answer to our growing list. Good luck in your job search!

      • Corinne says:

        Thanks for getting the word out about Road to Teaching. I like your blog as well. The numebr of hits on our Teacher Interview Questions page has exploded. This is not suprising with school districts beginning to hire. I plan to start picking one question a week, and then answering it.

        • Josafa says:

          The three take-aways for my business wrtiing course are something like this:1. Students will be able to create a professional ethos. We’ll practice creating a professional ethos with every public communication we have during the class (to include discussion boards, etc.). The hope is that by studying what ethos is, how it is created, and examining examples of individual ethos and brand ethos (or identity), students will leave the class being able to establish themselves as trustworthy and credible professionals (on an individual level) and be able to apply techniques of individual ethos to creating an ethos (or identity) for the business they will work for in their future career.2. Students will be able to understand [not the best word here, but my brain isn’t working well this morning] the different rhetorical choices a professional business writer must make these rhetorical choices are determined by audience (discourse community?), development of ethos, application of pathos, and an understanding of logos (and other techniques). The rhetorical choices will help them to make appropriate decisions about genre, document design, vocabulary, etc.3. Students will practice wrtiing in different genres commonly used in business communication. These include traditional formats (like letters, memos, and resumes) but also include social media and other forms of electronic communication (like emails, texting, and instant messaging).Thanks in advance for the feedback!Barb

        • Rodrigo says:

          Hi,It’s Ginna here. I teach five different onlnie sociology courses, from 101 to 431, so the objectives listed in the syllabi aren’t always the same. For a Soc 101 course, these are my three most important objectives:By the time you finish the course you should be able to explain what sociology is and how it is used you should be able to demonstrate the sociological perspective through the application of analytic, critical thinking and communication skills, you should be able to demonstrate your understanding of sociological research by presenting appropriate content on a public blog

        • Barbi says:

          Elia Perez Posted on Kim thank you! Lupus is not the end of the world. I fight and challenge mylesf daily. Sometimes to the point of exhaustion, but I NEED to squeeze everything I can out of my days! I have always been like that. To my family it is more significant now the cotributions I make to our family. Stay strong Sis!

    • Herman says:

      I showed them my voisin for the year, which I created over the summer and then I showed them the voisin video the kids came up with last year. Then they broke into teams and just spoke to each other. We then then shared our ideas, picked our wording, and wrote it into the Animoto – I have the free educator account. After that the kids looked through the pictures, picked the ones they liked, picked the music etc and then finished it. My classroom was pretty chill while we did this, the kids were talking and hanging out wherever they wanted to as long as they could see the screen. It was very relaxed and together. I hope this helps.

      • Leozinho says:

        I recently had a first iveirntew for a history position. It is an alternative school for at risk students within a larger school district. They also participate in the AVID program. Of course I was unaware of the existence of this school and was caught of guard when called for the iveirntew. I did know a little about AVID since I was exposed to the program during my student teaching, thank goodness. One of the iveirntew questions posed was, Does a student being at risk have to do with his/her intelligence level ? I responded by saying, no. A student can be at risk for many other reasons. Students can have a negative perception of authority figures in school. Support can also be lacking at home and can hinder learning success in school. It could also be that teachers have failed the student, giving up so quickly instead of exhausting resources to help keep the student motivated to learn. Was this a good answer? It’s been a couple of days and have not heard from the principle that iveirntewed me.

      • Rodel says:

        I am part of a hiring cimomttee at my school. Not only would we know if your answers were rehearsed, but I would definitely not hire someone that was unable to articulate their knowledge, strength, and skills in regard to teaching. These should be your answers, your philosophies and ideologies. Not some stock answers you found on the web. I do agree that these questions will help you to prepare for your interview. They will help you to reflect and focus your answers. (I just think there is no need for published answers so that you can tailor your answers to them.)

    • Arun says:

      Some students are not trutesd to be in front of screensin schools in some countries. In other countries, the school, not government blocked facebookbecause of the studentswho use the computer lab during breaks they r aloud to use anything during the break timeand they misused internet over and over again allowed.

      • Manoj says:

        adamBATTAGLIA Posted on whit, your pictures are unlibeevable. sure, i’m really jealous but also REALLY JEALOUS. congrats on what seems to be a successful trip so far. can’t wait to see the show.

    • Baena says:

      Congratulations on obtaining your 2nd ieretvinw! I would address this question by first doing some research on the school/school district to see what language arts and math programs they have implemented. If you find out if there is a program, then familiarize yourself with it. Next, I would review your state standards.Based on your research, discuss in a broad framework how you would incorporate literacy and math in your classroom. Also, I would describe maybe a sample lesson plan / activity that would fit within your framework.

      • Ernesto says:

        Linds Posted on my only thought on the color shmece is Jesus loves His enemies? swell pics, bro very swell. (ps- you should feel special. your blog is pretty much the only one i ever check regularly.)

      • Marie says:

        Posted on You’re a far braver veeiwr than I I’ve given up on even the one genre show this season I sorta liked, Reaper, cause when it’s on, I can’t motivate enough interest to actually watch a whole episode.I’m a reality whore now. It’s all I do.

  2. Auth says:

    I think that digital pgohotraphy can help teachers seamlessly integrate technology in all aspects of teaching. I also think that administrators can use it to introduce technology to the few teachers who are still somewhat timid about using computers in the classroom.[]

    • Krystal says:

      Thanks Sandra for visiting the weibtse. Since the start of school, I’ve slacked a bit in updating the weibtse. I apologize for the late response to your inquiry. The name of game is networking networking networking. Get involved anywhere you can and keep in touch with as many people (teachers, admin, others connected to the education community) as you can. It’s not an easy job market by any means.Another way to network is to coach, tutor, or volunteer to help after-school clubs. Principals and teacher leaders will take notice of your commitment.Best of luck and keep us posted!-Eric

  3. Adrian says:

    Love this year’s vision! We’re wonrikg on ours right now and I need some help with process. Each student wrote a hope or wish for the year and drew a picture to go with it. I was going to scan some of their drawings and add photos for them to choose from. How did you have your kids decide on finally wording, sequence, visuals, etc? Did you assemble the final product? If not, how do 24 kids work on one Animoto video?

    • Agustin says:

      LOL. Do you not believe in hoewmork for kids?!Just kiding, I’m glad Keairah is doing well in your class, and has a teacher she enjoys and understands:)

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi Max. I think these are very clear. I see where you are going with it. It seems like you could condense it even fruhter. The first two seem to go together with the second being the supporting activity. So it might be something like, Articulate humanity’s relationship to energy (via a timeline that shows the transitions). Likewise, 3 and 4 sound like they might be combined into one activity. 5 is already an activity that supports 6. And 2 will also support 6. Thanks. This makes it easy for me to see how this course design could develop.

      • Sri says:

        Roy, all of these will work.BWA is a 110 VAC power supply. You can use holuheosd electric.The BWB and BXB are 24 VDC versions. These you will need to purchase a power supply for.The specifiers for the Micrologix 1000 are as follows.1761 L ## A W A 5A## = Number of I/oA = Input Type:A = 120V ACB = 24V DCN = 24V AC/DCW = Output Type:B = 24V DC (Sink or Source)W = RelayX = Relay and 24V DC FET’sA = Power Supply:A = 120/240V ACB = 24V DCSo the BWA has 24V DC inputs, Relay Outputs and 110V AC power.You can also use the emulator that I mentioned above. I will post how to use it soon.

  4. Axo says:

    Finally a recent reievw of the new version. Really cool look inside the members area. For the first time I’ve come across a bonus package on your site that has real value instead of all the hyped crap out there by the gurus. See you on the inside buddy!

    • Ali says:

      The class I am planning is an Environmental Science class in Energy Efficiency and Conservation. I guess the very basic meagsse I would like students to understand is that controlling future energy demand is a great alternative to increased production. Trying to expand that into a a few take homes, student should be able to:•Describe the energy limitations on our nation’s future and the importance of controlling energy demand.•Describe the potential for the most promising technologies for improved energy efficiency in the present and future.•Understand how energy efficiency can affect them as individuals.Any thoughts are welcome.Gary

    • Javier says:

      MistyXoXo Posted on Thanks for the post, Clarice. My doctor first suscepted that I might have arthritis, but the hand x-rays came back normal and that’s when he considered Lupus. I hope you get through the winter without too much pain!

    • Mayre says:

      Posted on Eisner awarding wiinnng comic-shop, Zeus Comics is in Dallas which may or may not be on your route.Though I think you’ve hit upon a fantastic idea something we maybe should talk about off-site.If I don’t talk to you before hand, have a safe trip!

    • Jesus says:

      Posted on Haha, Sarah, you’re hilarious and I love it! Honestly, it doesn’t even matetr that they leave my name out when all the cool kids on the internet mention me! We know who has more street cred!XOXOFelicia

  5. Issam says:

    thanx for all these info in your site. just comin to finish my asnmgniest and need to find some questionnaire to be asked to some secondary school teacher about the teaching of listening and speaking skills.u c, im a student teacher in malaysia and im teaching english as a second language in a primary school. will be in debt to you if you can give me any tips and frequently asked questions regarding these two skills. if you have come across them, please share it with me k.thanx..

    • Felix says:

      The class I am working on is EDCI 570 Introduction to Research in Curriculum and Instruction. I have four taykawaes listed below:Students will be able to:1. Identify and describe the various research paradigms including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method research.2. Assess key elements of a research article.3. Synthesize previous research on a research topic of your choice and complete a literature review.4. Design and write a research proposal for a topic of your choice.

    • Ethyl says:

      umeh ouehkacynkwu.duke Posted on am umeh ouehkacynkwu,a 27years old boy from nigeria,a graduate of computer and information science lead city university ibadan.please sir,i tried to look for the link of where to fill the scholarship application form

  6. Yogi says:

    Ms. Ramirez, At our school, we used reulsts from DIBLES data to determine whether a student was at-risk, some-risk, or low-risk. There is a range for the scores that places a child into one of those categories. At-risk means in danger of not making the end-of-the-year goal in that area. Those would be the ones who needed the most intensive intervention during our guided-group/ workshop time. (I hope this was helpful.)

    • Garima says:

      Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your post seem to be runnnig off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know. The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks Sofortkredit Online Kredite ohne Schufa

    • Silvina says:

      Natasha Posted on Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sorry you are in pain, it’s very very difcufilt. Try to stay positive and move forward. Peace and blessings, Natasha

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