Starting the school year has always been exciting not only for students but also for teachers. We, as a teacher would never know the children we are going to deal with for the whole year through. Thus, setting up an essential agreement at the beginning of the academic year is essential as we want to establish a good and conducive class.
Rules or agreement?
Teachers in some school are now starting to move away from using the word “rules” to using the word “agreements”. What are actually the differences between rules and agreement in classroom? Rules are imposed. They’re set for the purpose of compliance. Any violations of rules should be punished to maintain the power of the rule. Rules are “above people.” The locus of control is external, teaching us that we don’t have the power – so we’re pushed toward obedience rather than internal motivation.
Agreements are negotiated. They’re set for the purpose of collaboration. Any violations should be discussed to learn. Agreements are “between people.” The locus of control is internal, teaching us that we have the power – so we’re pushed toward intrinsic motivation.
However, although some teachers are no longer use the term “rules” in their classroom, some others are still using it because they might think what their classroom would be like without any rules. They don’t want to have a chaotic class so that they prefer using the “rules” instead of “agreement”
As for me, since i am teaching in an IB school, i prefer starting my class by creating an “essential agreement” to make sure that my class will function well and in a conducive way. Rather than teachers imposing their rules on children, everyone in the group works together to establish an agreement of how the class will function. Here are some tips of creating an essential agreement in class.
- Last year, i tried this with my students. First, i will let them watch some video about what a good classroom and a “not-good” one. After that, we brainstorm together. We ask them which classroom they would prefer studying in and ask the reason why.
- After brainstorming, we ask the students again what make a good classroom. Students will come up with various answers. We can also ask students to come up with things that might disrupt the class, anything that will make the class stray from its goals. For example, if students want to improve their listening comprehension or learn to think in English, it will be highly disruptive to hear students speaking their native language. Little ones might say that they don’t want any shouting, yelling, or hitting in class. Some students may say that they shouldn’t interrupt someone when he or she’s speaking.
- How to avoid disruptive behaviour. After getting some ideas about what disruptive behaviours are. We can brainstorm with the students about how to avoid the disruptive behaviours to make the class run smoothly. They might be quick to say that no shouting, yelling, or hitting is allowed in class. And to avoid interruptions and make sure everyone has a chance to speak, your students will suggest that they have to raise their hands. Try to phrase each of the rules in an affirmative way, for example, in a way that tells them what they should do and not what they shouldn’t do. Having your walls filled with “No shouting”, “No eating in class”, in other words, no, no, no everywhere does not contribute to creating a very positive learning environment either.
- Now you have to put it all in writing, after all, verbal contracts won’t hold water in a classroom. They can make a poster illustrating the essential agreement, and then put it up some place where it’s clearly visible. You can also give students some post it and have them write about what they just said about how to avoid disruptive behaviours to maintain a good and conducive classroom. Ask them to paste/stick into the place provided and together read all the agreement.
- So, to sum up, make sure each and every student is clear and agreed on the agreement. They should also understand that the agreements are subjected to any changes should there be any cases which require any changing or improvement of the agreement.
Grade 4 Teacher