Steps To Building a Classroom Community: Collaborating on Class Contracts

As we roll into this new school year, it is really useful to build a strong and positive classroom community and culture. One way I’ve seen this done well is by creating a collaborative class contract with students. By allowing students to provide input on the contract, you create a community feeling and increase student buy-in because it’s authentic, relevant, and meaningful to them.

A good starting point is to ask students what makes a classroom successful.  What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? Specifically, you can ask what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that can improve the function of a classroom or completely disrupt it? 

I offer the following questions you can pose to your students to help in the creation process: 

  • What agreements should we have about the way we interact both offline and online?
  • What agreements should we have about the way we use school devices?
  • What agreements should we have about the way we use personal devices?

For more ideas, you can visit Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship curriculum.

From there, you can jointly create categories of successful classroom features. Here are several suggestions for how to implement this classroom contract collaboration: 

  • Create a Google Form with each category of agreement. Categories might include some of the following: use of personal technology, contributing to the class environment both online and offline, and coming to class prepared with class materials, including devices. 
  • Send the form to students to solicit ideas on which agreements they feel are important to add, then share the results and draft the final Class Contract collaboratively.
  • Share a template like the one below in Google docs that includes pre-populated categories for students to share their ideas. 
  • Have students use sticky notes to write down suggestions for each category. Then place the notes on a graph - along a horizontal line for new ideas and along the vertical axis for repeated/similar ideas.

Digital Onboarding Plan Template

  • Have each student post their suggested categories and ideas for each category on Padlet. Then have students vote on the top ideas. (Be sure to allow voting when setting up your Padlet wall).
  • Use a tool like Flip Grid to have students record videos in which they commit to the responsible use of technology.

There are several instructional models you can use as part of creating a class contract: 

  • Whole Group Activity
  • Station Rotation (small groups move between stations to contribute)
  • Flipped (students watch a video or listen to audio before the activity)
  • Whole Group Rotation (provide a lesson about digital citizenship and rotate to an activity from above)
  • Use a playlist that provides choices  

As I’ve visited classrooms this school year, I’ve seen many collaborative contracts posted. I love to see the student signatures. Teachers who have started creating collaborative class contracts with students say it is such a powerful way to create not only buy-in from their students but also a culture of collaboration within the classroom. It’s never too late in the school year to create a collaborative class contract with your students. If you have other ideas, feel free to share them with me!

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