Developing community agreements can be a fun, collaborative process that encourages a sense of ownership and collective responsibility among students, promoting a culture of mutual respect and understanding. After a trimester or semester, you likely have a sense of what’s worked well and what’s been challenging in your classroom. Try this exercise to revisit and revitalize your classroom community agreements to respond to your students’ dynamic needs.
Note: This activity works well with adults, too. Try it with your Professional Learning Communities or at a staff meeting to breathe life into grade-level or school-wide agreements.
Creating community agreements is a collaborative activity that builds a positive and inclusive learning environment. Co-created with input from both teachers and students, these agreements lay the groundwork for a shared understanding of values and expectations. The process of creating agreements cultivates a supportive classroom where diverse perspectives are acknowledged, communication is open, and everyone feels empowered to actively participate in their learning journey.
After a trimester or semester, you likely have a sense of what’s worked well and what’s been challenging in your classroom. Whether your agreements were self-selected based on your expertise or collaboratively created with your students at the beginning of the school year, you can revisit and revitalize them in this lesson as you respond to your students’ dynamic needs.
Refreshing Community Agreements
This lesson plan is written for elementary students, but feel free to modify or incorporate your own narratives to make it suitable for different age groups.
Prepare Students for the Activity
Revisit your current agreements by allowing volunteers to read them out loud spontaneously (“popcorn” style). Afterwards, invite students to turn and talk with the person next to them about an agreement that was a “glow,” or something that has been going really well. Encourage them to share a specific time when they had a positive experience with that agreement this school year. They could also remember a moment when they noticed someone else upholding that agreement really well.
- One time I did a good job with…
- I noticed someone else followed…
- I remember when the whole class did…
Let a few students share their glows with a focus on hearing examples for each agreement (time/attention span permitting).
You can also do a quick survey after each share and ask, “Raise your hand if you chose that agreement as your glow, too,” and put tally marks or stars next to each one.
Guide the Practice
Share an example you noticed (that hasn’t been mentioned by students). Focus on the shift that you observed, either in the class or in yourself.
Do you remember the time when I told you that I wasn’t feeling well? I appreciated how many people asked if I needed help that day. When I drove home I was very tired, but filled with gratitude for your thoughtfulness.
I’m proud of how well we’ve done with these agreements. I wonder if there are any agreements that are more of a “grow” for us, or something we could do better with a little extra practice and attention?
Let’s see if we can imagine what it might look like if we got a bit better at those trickier agreements. Let your eyes close or gaze softly down. Notice a few breaths … or listen to the sounds around you.
Keep your eyes open to ensure safety and attune to what is happening in the room. Allow for some movement and noise. After a few moments you can offer some visualization ideas.
Now think of an agreement that is a bit challenging for you or others to follow. Don’t pick the hardest one, just one that can be a little difficult at times. Create a picture in your mind of that challenge right now.
Maybe imagine the class being noisy and it’s hard to follow instructions, or maybe kids are playing in line and it’s taking a long time to get to the cafeteria.
Now imagine it looking a little better than usual. Maybe somebody says or does something we haven’t tried before. Imagine the challenge with this agreement gradually slowing down like glitter resting at the bottom of a jar after being swirled.
Notice any sensations, thoughts, or feelings that might be present right now.
I’ll ring the bell and once the sound disappears, you can bring your gaze back to the room.
The debrief gives students a chance to make sense of their mindfulness experience and explore modifications of the community agreements. It’s the most important part of the activity.
I am now going to pass a talking piece around, and if you would like to share what you noticed or imagined, you will get the chance to. You have the option to pass or to briefly say your thoughts, feelings, sensations or agreement you may have visualized differently.
Allow for as many responses as possible while offering mindful listening. Refrain from giving advice or adding onto students’ comments. Simply let this be a time for a wide variety of experiences to be shared and for students’ voices to be heard.
Based on our discussion and practice…
- Should we add or change to our agreements?
- How can I help you or how can we support each other to keep growing with them?
- How can we remember these agreements every day?
I appreciate you trying this activity together. It is important that this learning space is safe and that you have a say in what is working and feels right for you. Please know that we will make mistakes along the way, but that our agreements will help us to respond to each other with care and kindness.
Make any modifications to your agreements together, or make a plan for when things go sideways. You might offer a writing or drawing extension to allow for students to express their ideas privately.
Consider making it a habit to attach reading your agreements with a daily activity. My class reads agreements every morning after the Pledge of Allegiance, and we spend time giving shout outs to those who we noticed practicing them. I often get to start my day with a lot of appreciation from my class for how I am upholding our agreements as their teacher.
Crafting and refreshing your classroom agreements supports a sense of ownership and collective responsibility among students, promoting a culture of mutual respect and understanding. Have fun with the collaborative process.
In 101: Mindfulness Foundations, learn practices that can resource you during the school day and daily life, with trauma-sensitive approaches for navigating emotons, working with thoughts and biases, and cultivating compassion and joy. Educators earn credits.