10 tips for creating a class agreement…

Do a quick google image search for ‘classroom rules’ and ‘classroom agreements’ (or ‘essential agreements’ as they’re called in the PYP) and see if anything surprises you…

What I noticed is that, despite the heading, many classroom agreements are still lists of rules.

Do teachers value compliance above learning?

These are amongst the most common elements I found, none of which seem to relate to learning...

  • Work quietly.
  • Raise your hand to speak.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Follow instructions.
  • Do your best work.
  • Don’t speak until called on.
  • Be punctual.

Have our students’ training and experience set them up to believe that these are are the appropriate expectations for a learning environment?

Some are even more extreme and less related to learning…

  • Sit correctly on chairs. (big kids?)
  • We sit still on the carpet. (little kids)
  • Keep your hands to yourself.
  • Don’t throw things.
  • Talk to your classmates only when the activity requires you to.
  • Stay in your seat unless you have permission to leave.

Does this set the tone for engaging learning?

Here are some of the more appealing inclusions I found, which are more likely to support an environment conducive to learning… and isn’t that the purpose of school?

  • Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Try new things even if they scare us.
  • Think before you act.
  • Respect yourself and others.
  • Make wise choices to support your learning.
  • Include people if they look excluded.
  • Be open-minded – Listen to, consider and value other perspectives.
  • Take ownership of our learning.
  • Dream big.

10 ways to create a meaningful class agreement…

  1. Don’t start till you’ve spent some time establishing your own beliefs about learning.
  2. Have the kids consider what helps them learn and what hinders their learning. (Details here)
  3. Begin with what the learners value or the school values. (Example here)
  4. Have kids unpack your school’s learning principles as a starting point. (I haven’t tried that yet, but here are ours.)
  5. Base it on a common set of qualities, such as the IB Learner Profile. (Staff example here)
  6. Use a ‘place mat’ activity so students have time to think individually, before seeking consensus. (Details here)
  7. Have kids think about what learning ‘looks like‘, sounds like‘ and ‘feels like’.
  8. Take your time. Build the agreement gradually, to ensure understanding and ownership.
  9. Include photos and descriptions for younger learners, to elaborate on the words.
  10. Live it, don’t laminate it. Revisit the agreement often and adjust as required.

What’s in your class agreement?

39 thoughts on “10 tips for creating a class agreement…

  1. Agreed – all the way. Many teachers impose their learning needs and experiences on those in their class. My starting point in exploring this was Barbara Prashnig and her work. Here is the link to her article “10 False Beliefs about Learning.

    Click to access 10%20False%20Beliefs.pdf

    It is also why my concept of “Learning Intelligence” (LQ for short) is so important. A simple definition is “managing your learning environment to meet your learning needs”. You can read more about LQ and the environment at: http://wp.me/p2LphS-3D


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your extended reading posts. If only your further reading sources had cited there sources. The trail seems to go dry with lots of empty–‘the research suggests’–statements.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. Your timing is impeccable! The school year in NZ begins this coming week. I will be sharing your post with my team. 🙂


  3. I really like your focus on activities surrounding the agreement, not just the agreement itself. I think that setting the right context is just as important as the message itself.


  4. Teachers are always suppose to set standards in a classroom. Teaching the students to have self discipline and learn respect consists of becoming a scholarly student. Having class agreements can make a class extremely great. Class Agreements can make everyone act and think the same as their instructor. The ten ways you created Ms. Sackson are very essential for an educational process. You mentioned that you have to spend time before you establish your beliefs about learning. That was very critical to a person who takes their time before rushing to do their work.


  5. I’m new to inquiry learning and the PYP. I’m only in my 4th year. But I seem to see too many teachers (maybe even myself!) giving lipservice to the idea of the agreement, the idea that the students are active participants in the construction of such agreements. When, in fact, we are creatively guiding our students to come up with the agreements that we want our class to have. It’s hard for us to let go of the control and guide students to make their descisions, not ours. I feel the same way about inquiry sometimes. Yes, inquiry is often structured and needs to be, but are we “pretending” to let inquiries be about what students are interested in, or are we just finding less-than-obvious ways to get them where we have already decided that they need to be? Both of these topics have been heavy on my mind as the school year begins where I am…


  6. Fantastic comment, thanks Kris! (Do you work with Vanessa?!)
    A big shift (and a challenge!) for new inquiry teachers is to let go and stop playing ‘guess what’s in my head’. You might start by pretending – it’s liberating when you are able to truly let go and let students take ownership of the learning (even within a framework of structured inquiry). Three great resources for you are the Inquire Within blog (range of perspectives on student directed learning) Just Wondering (Kath Murdoch, inquiry guru’s blog) and Inquiry as Stance on Curriculum, an article by Kathy short. Let me know if you need links!


  7. I do work with Vanessa, I’ve responded here several times, but now that I think about it I have always used my regular gmail address. I’m MsKrisinBrazil on twitter and we’ve had a few interactions there as well, though I have been twitter-silent for several months.

    Reading your response to my response, I wonder if I misrepresented what I wanted to say. I’m a Girl Scout and in scouting we say, “Leader guides, girl decides”. This is nothing new for me. When I taught university students and preschoolers, my classes were always inquiry-driven. Jumping into inquiry in elementary school was not actually much of a jump for me. It can be like jumping into the deep end of the pool, because you never know what you are going to get. But I am concerned about the discourse I hear during faculty meetings and around the water cooler. I include myself because I am part of that faculty and I need to be ever vigilant that I am NOT falling into those traps….and I regularly follow Inquire Within and Just Wondering. They are, in fact, great resources.


  8. The advantage of essential agreements is to set a culture of community learning that is determined by the learners in that community.


  9. Thanks for your blog post! Very succinct with lots of great thinking and info. Like Kris I will be using this in the next few few weeks.


  10. I really like this article and found it to be reaffirming. Last year in grade one we worked on finding out what we need to do in school and what is learning? Students enjoyed sharing what would be their dream classroom environment. We let anything go and recorded all of their suggestions. Like the second set of rules most of the exchanges from the students were what not to do. As a teaching team we grouped the what not to’s into three simple headings, students helped with the sorting. We came up with three essential agreements for the room that encompassed almost all of the suggestions, listen, take care, learn. These three words were then used as questions, ‘Did you take care when you drew on Fred’s work? Did you listen when Jane asked to play?, What did you learn here?’. This year I will be on grade four and hope to use the same format in creating the essential agreements but hope to have stronger terms.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A while since my first reply but things don’t stand still. My work has led to identifying what creates a “engaging” learning environment, one that the teacher creates. Using Glasser (Choice Theory) as a foundation along with 35+ years of teaching I have come up with “Please Be Child Friendly” as a mnemonic for PBCF. Here is the summary – much more on my blog along with a graphic. P is for “Power”, giving everyone a voice. B is “Belonging”, knowing about your learners. C is for “Choice”, not free choice but offering choice and explaining consequences. F is for “Fun”, the challenge to teachers is to link this to achievement.


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