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Choosing and Establishing Classroom Norms

The goal is to foster an environment where students view learning as their own and strive to work collaboratively to a deeper understanding. Establishing a classroom culture where student thinking is visible and valued will help achieve that goal. Maintaining and fostering high expectations for students’ involvement in their learning is crucial.

Getting Started

The following suggestions invite students to participate in establishing classroom norms.

  • During the initial days of school, have students imagine the “best class ever.” Ask what words they would use to describe it. Brainstorm a list of adjectives and phrases.
  • On the following day ask, “How can we make this ideal class happen?” Students will generate proposed class norms.

Sample Plan

Ask students, “Imagine the ideal class, the best class you ever hope to have. What words would you use to describe it?” Then follow the 3-2-1 Protocol within teams of three to four students as follows:

Individually write down three descriptors. Choose two to share with the rest of your team. Select one descriptor that your team can support. Share with the rest of the class and record the results on chart paper.

Throughout the year, you can reference students’ words and reflect together on how well the class is upholding those ideals.

Student and Teacher Awareness

Ask the following questions to facilitate student–teacher interaction. For each question, have teams of students create a written response on a half a sheet of paper. Then have teams present their responses aloud.

  • What should middle school teachers know about middle school students?
  • What should middle school students know about middle school teachers?
  • What are some common beliefs shared by both middle school students and middle school teachers?

These questions will help you establish active listening skills while demonstrating how much you value student thinking. Having students share their responses will help students to demonstrate that same respect for one another. Once you establish your classroom as a collective learning community, students will view themselves as participating members in questioning and validating mathematical ideas.