Class norms are the behavioral expectations or rules of the class. Class norms inform us how we are expected to behave towards each other and towards the materials we use in school. Students who are partners in composing class norms are more likely to experience a level of ownership, participate in instruction, and engage in mutually respectful and cooperative relationships. In addition, students and instructional team members jointly developing and implementing norms shifts some of the responsibility for supporting and encouraging socially appropriate interactions from the teacher to the students. It also helps to insure that students indeed understand the classroom community’s expectations and provides the rationale for them to monitor and change their own behaviors.
Once students have demonstrated a basic understanding of the core concepts of trust, sharing, belonging and respect, the instructional team and the students can jointly develop class norms that support the concepts. Norms may be written at either a general or specific level. Norms written at a general level do not specify the particular behaviors in which students are expected to engage and are applicable in a wide variety of situations. Some examples of general class norms are: “be a good neighbor,” “respect others and yourself,” and “be kind.” Norms written at a specific level identify distinct behaviors, such as “raise hand before talking,” or “walk in the hallways,” and are usually only applicable in particular situations. For purposes of this curriculum norms should be developed at a general level such that they are relevant in a wide variety of situations. Specific behaviors to support the norms will be selected jointly by students and instructional teams as part of teaching collaborative skills. Regardless of their level of specificity, class norms need to be developed jointly by the instructional team and students. Click here to see sample norms from our partner classrooms.