Classroom expectations help students build social responsibility. Try creating a classroom contract together using the children’s ideas.
Social responsibility is about ethics and a duty for the greater good. As educators, we strive to teach students to understand and respect themselves, each other, and the world around them. It is promoting thoughtful interactions with others and thinking beyond oneself. It is about making the right decisions and solving conflicts.
Creating a Classroom Contract to Set Expectations
If you have arrived at this post, I can assume it is due to curiosity or a need for developing classroom expectations. Perhaps you are wondering how to begin teaching social responsibility. Perhaps you are wondering where to begin and what steps to take.
I hope that this and future posts in this series give you actionable, straight-forward lessons and ideas that you can implement in your classroom today. Hopefully, you will start seeing the benefits in the ways that your students interact, deal with the highs and lows of their day, and make decisions in the classroom and on the playground. In addition, you will see the many little bodies in your classroom grow into ones that are fulfilled, peaceful, kind, and strong.
Creating Classroom Expectations with a Contract
Each year we create a classroom contract. This multi-step process helps children identify what is important in a classroom and to take responsibility for maintaining that. A classroom contract is something that is built with the participation and ideas from everyone. It becomes something quite strong and powerful. It is also a nice alternative to traditional classroom rules.
How to Create a Classroom Contract
Classroom Expectations Step 1: Have Conversations & Read Books
Starting at the beginning of the year, we have conversations with each day about social topics. We talk about respect, community, teamwork, responsibility, etc. I ask them questions and give them scenarios to discuss and answer. This encourages critical thinking and sharing of viewpoints.
Have weekly classroom meetings. During our classroom meetings, children are encouraged to openly share feelings, gratitude, give compliments. and solve problems.
I read books daily and choose stories that illustrate how children deal with different emotions and issues. We talk about the stories and students share their connections. These books for classroom meetings are perfect for teaching social skills and having those important conversations.
Classroom Expectations Step 2: Create an Anchor Chart
We gather as a class to create an anchor chart together (What are anchor charts?). I have the chart ready with the title “A Great Classroom” and a Y shape below it to create three separate areas to add our ideas. Children are asked to give thoughts and answer questions honestly. Also, you could change the title to something different that suits your class, such as “A Peaceful Classroom” or “Mrs. or Mr.’s Classroom”.
I start with asking them to imagine what a “great” classroom looks like (what they see when they look around in their classroom and at the children). As students raise their hands and share ideas, I add those ideas to the anchor chart. If I feel like an important idea has not been mentioned, I may give hints or ask questions until someone mentions it.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom looks like include happy kids, working hard, fun, learning, helping, and more.
We switch to what a “great” classroom sounds like (what they hear in terms of noise and what people say). Children eagerly share their ideas and I add them to that section.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom sounds like include quiet working, manners, laughing, kind words, questions, and more.
Lastly, we talk about what a “great” classroom feels like (what feelings they have inside when they are at school and how people make them feel). This part is a bit more difficult for children. When you talk, encourage them to think about how they feel on a good day and when good things happen. This is good practice for kids to identify different emotions.
Some of the ideas for “A Great Classroom feels like include open, welcoming, respectful, happy, honest, and more.
Classroom Expectations Step 3: Review Chart & Pick 3 Ideas
Review and reread the chart with the class. Ask them if anyone needs anything explained or if there are any questions. While the ideas are still fresh in their minds, children get to pick their favourite three ideas. They choose one idea from each of the three sections and add a sticker to mark that spot.
Children line up and come up to the chart with their stickers. I ask them to say which ideas they think are the most important and I help them, if needed, to find those ideas on the chart.
As stickers are added, we begin to see a few ideas from each section stand out. After all the stickers have been added, count up and write the number of stickers beside each “big” idea. Those “big” ideas become the main components of the classroom contract. If children believe those ideas to be the most important, then they will be more prone to follow through and work hard.
Classroom Expectations Step 4: Write & Illustrate Ideas
As an extension activity, you could have students record their own 3-4 favourite ideas or the top ideas chosen by the class. Using the free templates, children can write their ideas and illustrate them, make their own anchor chart, record the final contract, and more. Optionally, post their work along with the final signed contract on a bulletin board later on.
To use the FREE class contract resource, click the image below.
Classroom Expectations Step 5: Write, Sign, & Review the Classroom Contract
Separately, prewrite the class contract that includes the most important things decided upon as a class. I suggest writing them into a paragraph on a piece of chart paper and read them aloud each day.
Read and practice it with the class. Each child can put their name or stamp a thumbprint on the final contract to show that they agree. Post the classroom contract somewhere visible and review with the class often. I usually post it along a higher wall that we can all see and refer to often.
By developing a classroom contract with your students, you are letting them know that they are important members of the classroom community and that their ideas matter. This contract is a symbol of teamwork, cooperation, and respect. It lets children know and reminds them of what role they have as individuals. It is a powerful thing!
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Thanks, Elyse! You have some great ideas here.
Proud to be Primary
Thanks Barbara! I am truly passionate about this activity and building social responsibility! So important!!
This is the best resource for setting expectations in the class ive ever seen. Thank you . -Homeschooling mom
Proud to be Primary
I love this! Did I miss the books that you read? I’d love to know some of the titles. Thanks!
This is a great resource! I’m doing this for the first time in my kindergarten class this year and was glad to see a sample of how you can go about doing this with the littles.
What happens when a student doesn’t not follow the expectations on the social contract? How do you approach it? What steps come next? Do you have any scenarios?
Proud to be Primary
Hi Cindi. That is up to you and what your beliefs are related to behavior management. I prefer to use positive rather than punitive strategies. I would have a chat with them and review the expectations and make a plan together for improvement. We have weekly classroom meetings as well to review expectations and what’s working and what’s not. These types of meetings help tremendously. Hope that helps!
This is great! Love how you specifically go over each part. Is the classroom contract your rules? Or do you have something else related to rules? Or is the classroom contract the expectations students are required to follow?
Proud to be Primary
Hi Amanda! Yes, this becomes my classroom ‘s overall expectations that students are expected to follow. I find that if we develop them together, they are much more invested in following them. I do also use a variation of the Whole Brain rules available on my blog as well.
I love this idea, I will be trying it with my third graders this year! Thanks!
Do you have any suggestions for how to revisit the contract more regularly in class? How do you reflect with your students on how they are or aren’t following the expectations?
Thank you so much for all the wonderful ideas, examples and resources to implement SEL in the classroom!
There is so much to learn and research for! It will keep me busy and motivated during this summer break!
I already have many great ideas to implement in our back to school!
Again, thank you so much!
Proud to be Primary
You’re so welcome! All the best 🙂