On quarter of the eMINTS instructional model is dedicated to building classroom community. One way in which we do that at the very beginning of our training sessions is to allow our participants to set our community norms. The expectation is that these participants will turn around and do the same with their own classrooms. Create community or group norms is a way in insure that students feel some ownership in how their classroom operates.
I recently stumbled upon a blog post by Krissy Venosdale, an eMINTS teacher from Hillsboro R-3 (MO), who follows and believes in this approach. She moved from setting her own list of rules as a beginning teacher to letting the students help her make the rules. Eventually, with the help of her eMINTS training, she made the shift to norms and created the eye-catching and inspirational poster you see below.
The biggest difference between rules and norms is how they inform our behavior. Rules tell us what not to do and is why they normally come from a place of authority. Norms tell what to do and are agreed upon by a community. The focus moves from restrictions to possibilities and from teacher-centered to student-centered.
There are many ways to create your classroom norms, but I have a few suggestions to get you started:
- Ask students: What kinds of behaviors will help us make our classroom an efficient learning environment?
- Have students brainstorm a list of possible norms.
- Together, you and your students can look for commonalities in pairing the list down to something more manageable, like six or fewer norms.
- I like to provide one norm that is important to me as a way to demonstrate my expectations for norms.
- Norms should be written as things people do in order to be successful, not the things they won’t do.
Take a moment and think about how instituting norms in your classroom can have a positive impact on your learning environment.
What are some ways in which you have utilized norms in your classroom? When are rules more appropriate than norms? How have you come up with norms with your students?
Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. His favorite norm for his teachers is for them to “be present.”