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