An essential agreement for change agents…

Our Teaching and Learning Team has an ‘essential agreement’, inspired by this clip:

The Teaching and Learning Team agrees to…

  • encourage creativity and innovation
  • view everything through a lens of curiosity
  • embrace new possibilities and actively instigate change
  • create joy in new ways of doing things
  • foster a sense of ownership and empowerment
  • work hard to plan for and achieve success
  • work collaboratively and value teamwork
  • ensure learning is positive, engaging and fun
  • model positivity and optimism

… and encourage the above in everyone with whom we work.

In a PYP school, every class, every team, even the whole school has an essential agreement which sets the tone for collaboration and teamwork. How else would we know what the shared norms and expectations are? There are endless ways to develop such agreements and, since it’s the start of a new school year in Australia, all our teams and classes have been working on theirs.

It didn’t take long for our Teaching and Learning Team – Director of Teaching and Learning (Literacy) , Early Years Learning Coordinator, Head of Learning Support, Teaching Coach, Maths Coordinator and me – to come up with ours, since we already have common passions and a shared vision.

We watched the Piano Stairs clip, noted and shared how it relates to our roles and goals and.. voila! All we had to do was compile them into a list and we are ready to take on the new school year… and the world 🙂



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?

What helps us learn? Students’ view.

I have been asked to help out by teaching another class 6 periods a week.  As always in the PYP, we started by establishing our ‘essential agreement’.  I have blogged before about the process I used with my Year 5 class at the start of the year and, since that was successful, I decided to use the process again with this Year 6 group.  I asked the students to write down, first individually, then compare with their groups, ‘What helps me learn’ and ‘What hinders my learning’. I collated their thoughts  and brought them back for their approval, before using them as a basis for the essential agreement.  We all sign this agreement and constantly refer back to it if we find ourselves going off track and hindering our own or others’ learning.

I was struck, yet again, by how much students understand their own learning.  This is a summary of the things they are aware of :

  • They know that they learn best when there is co-operation and collaboration, but not too much noise.
  • They understand that learning requires mutual respect between students and teachers alike.
  • They know the difference between work and learning, so they don’t value worksheets, but prefer engaging and enjoyable learning experiences.
  • They understand that for learning to be effective, they need to talk quietly  one at a time and not call out.
  • They understand that people learn in different ways, each at their own pace.
  • They know they learn best when they feel safe and supported.

We should  get students to run professional development for us teachers, really we should…

Essential agreement…

In a PYP school, every working group (teachers or students) starts off by creating an ‘essential agreement’.  In the classroom, this means that, rather than teachers imposing rules, everyone works collaboratively to establish an agreement of how the class will function.

Today Jocelyn and I developed our class essential agreement.  We started by asking the children to consider carefully and then write down what helps them learn and what hinders their learning. The next step was to share with a partner and find the things they had in common. Later we brought back a  list of all the things they had written and, in groups, the students highlighted those they saw as most important for a class essential agreement which will maximise learning for everyone.  This will be collated, brought back one more time to make sure everyone agrees and then we’ll have our class essential agreement!

The wordle shows the key words from the students’ original list of what helps them to learn.  We believe it’s important to have an essential agreement that’s based on creating an environment conducive to learning, rather than rules and regulations.

PYP Key Concept: Function. Series of posts through the lens of  key concepts of PYP. Posts relating to other concepts so far: Form, Change, Connection, Perspective, Responsibility.