One of the most important jobs for the students in the first few weeks of school is to work towards creating a set of norms for the classroom. Norms are a set of expected behaviors for the class...one could think of them as rules, except rules tend to be established by the teacher, while norms are generally worked towards and agreed upon by the class as a whole. They are an agreement by the classroom community (both teacher and students) about how we will treat one another.
Our process for creating norms began in the first week of school. One of our first activities was for the students to reflect on their previous school experiences and to create a map of their classroom from last year. On this map they had to place three symbols: one that represented something that was fun or enjoyable; one that represented something that was difficult or unpleasant; and one that represented something that they would like to get better at in fifth grade. Once the maps were completed, students would gather in pairs to discuss their maps and talk about their symbols, with these conversations eventually turning to their hopes and dreams for this coming year. Towards the end of the first week of school, we had a class meeting to brainstorm what kind of class the students wanted to make this year an "awesome" year.
A classroom map, tagged using ThingLink
The next step was to start thinking of what we all needed to in order to make the ideas on the list of hopes and dreams a reality. The students gathered together in groups to generate a list of ideas and then to narrow that list down to no more than five main ideas. After the small groups generated their lists, we came together again as a class and recorded each group's list of five ideas. After all the ideas were recorded, we took the next few days critically examining that list to see if certain ideas kept repeating or to see if anything was missing. Out of this discussion we were able to hammer out the following five norms:
Creating these norms was a great success for the class, but we weren't finished yet! As the second week of school came to a close, the students once again broke into small groups and rotated in a "carousel" among the five norms and wrote down ways and examples of how we could demonstrate them in class. As we begin the third week of school, we are now in the process of "practicing" these norms in our class, and seeing how they affect our behaviors. It's important to note that these norms are living thing in our class, and that the job for upholding them lies with all of us, not just me. We came to the realization today that our number one challenge with these norms will be "helping each other learn and stay on track." We spent Closing Circle on Monday discussing strategies for how we might make that norm work better for us. We will continue to practice the norms this week and then, if all goes according to plan, begin to live them and become responsible for them in Week 4! I'm extremely proud of the work the students have done with this vital aspect of our classroom, and I'm looking forward to seeing these norms create a positive and caring classroom environment!
5th grade teacher in Princeton, NJ. Passionate about education, technology, and the New York Giants!