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Home : 2003 : Jun : 27

    First Day
    By Jane

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    I have had great success with writing a class contract with my students on the first two days. I begin by randomly putting the students into groups of 4. Their job is to compose what a good teacher does and what a good student does. The lists are recorded on chart paper. I, as the teacher, also compose these two lists.
    Following the discussion of what a contract is... a promise and agreement which both parties sign their name to as a way of committing to the document, we review the lists together and cross out those items that cannot be part of our contract. For instance, the students (I teach 5th grade) will inevitably put down that a good teacher doesn't give homework. I then explain that this is not true of a good teacher because I am required to prepare them for middle school and the school policy states that 5th graders will have homework. I put down on my list that a good student will give up recess to continue their studies and the children protest saying that they need a break and that this in fact willl help them to be better students.
    We end up with a list for the teacher and the student of positive expectations that we all agree to. This is put onto a poster and we all sign in agreement. It works well and seems to take care of rules. If children are meeting the positive expectations, they don't have to worry about the rules and breaking them. I point to the contract as necessary when behavior and effort slips and I find it to be very reinforcing. The students will also hold up the contract to me. For instance, I am amazed at how every year the children consistently want to list that a good teacher doesn't yell. I am not a yeller but I am human and if I so much as raise my voice, one student will meekly point out to me that the contract doesn't allow me to yell. I respond that the child is absolutely correct but who broke the contract first? Why is my voice headed for yelling? It is a point well taken by the children.
    The contract works great for me and I find that doing this on the first two days really pulls us together as a team!

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