Build Community with Shared Agreements
How will we treat each other, ourselves, our equipment, our time as learners? Shared agreements build community. We can intentionally create a classroom culture of mutual respect and collaboration by establishing, modeling, and holding all participants accountable to supportive agreements about how we learn together. You may already have such agreements in place; you may have cocreated those with your students.
In establishing class agreements, some teachers present a prepared list for discussions, others bring in a few ideas and let the students refine and revise those, while the most constructivist start from scratch with the discussion question: what do we need as learners in order to thrive together? Whatever your strategy, time invested up front in developing class agreements aligned with your values and beliefs about a learning community reaps tremendous payoffs.
|You are responsible for your own learning and for supporting the learning of others.||You are the boss of yourself, expected to make wise choices that support your learning, including where you sit, who you work near, what materials you choose, how you use your time, and how you respond to adversity. Further, you are expected to work and learn in a way that does not detract from the learning of others, including managing your movement, volume, materials, and focus, as well as balancing your own speaking and listening in conversations.||• I see ___ making a wise choice to ask for help when she is struggling to get online.
• I notice ___ choosing a quiet place to finish her work, away from distractions.
• I hear ___ taking time to explain her thinking in support of ___’s learning.
|• What is your responsibility as a learner right now?
• How are you supporting _____’s learning?
• What do you need in order to take responsibility for your learning?
|Share with humility.||When presenting your thinking with a partner, small group, or in a whole class discussion, share confidently yet respectfully. Allow time for others to respond and ask questions. Appreciate and respond to their questions as probes to deepen your thinking and understanding||• I appreciate how ___ concisely explained her work and then invited the group to ask questions.
• I respect how ___ described her plan so far and then invited input from peers.
|• How do you think you sound to your classmates?
• How are you inviting your peers to push your thinking?
|Listen with the intent to understand.||When peers or teachers are sharing, focus your mind and body and work hard to make sense of what they are describing||• ___is ready with a question, which shows he has been working hard to make sense.
• I can see that I have ____’s entire attention because he is facing me with curious eyes.
|• How can you show you are listening?
• As a listener, what are you wondering?
|No one is done until everyone is done, understands and can explain||As collaborators, you need to attend to the learning of everyone in your group: if one person has finished her own task, it is her duty to see how she can support the learning of peers- not just help them complete the work, but truly collaborate until each member of the team understands and can explain.||• This group is deep in conversation, ensuring that all members understand.
• I saw ___ work closely with ___ and support her understanding.
|• Does everyone understand?
• Is everyone ready to explain?
• What does your team need in order for everyone to be done?
Creating Classroom Climate
Use this template as inspiration to create or revise your own classroom agreements. Shared, documented understandings about how you will operate and support all learners eliminates confusion around classroom behaviors and procedures helps cultivate an atmosphere of trust and support between students and maximizes time for learning.
Hoffer, Wendy Ward. Cultivating STEM Identities, Strengthening Student and Teacher Mindsets in Math and Science. Heinemann Publishing, 2016. (28-29)