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Involving Students in Developing Rules

These strategies are particularly useful for developing a classroom contract.

1. Students develop rules for the teacher.
This option invites students to formulate rules or guidelines that they want their teacher to follow.  There is a paradoxical relationship between sharing power and having more.  By empowering others, we tend to receive more authority and respect.  Students take pleasure and pride in being given the opportunity to identify teachers' imperfections.  When teachers respond by making some changes, students are empowered in a very positive way.  Teachers who feel threatened or reluctant can limit students to two or three rules, and they can veto any rule that violates school policies, runs counter to their values, or would make teaching impossible.

2. Students develop rules for each other.
Students can collaborate in small groups to generate a list of rules (and, possibly, consequences) for each other.  When the lists are consolidated, rules can be voted on and accepted if they are supported by at least 70 percent of the students.

3. Students vote on negotiable rules.
Younger children, or those with little experience in cooperative decision-making may be helped if the teacher generates a list of rules.  Those necessary rules having to do with safety or enforcement of school policies are starred or flagged.  They are non-negotiable.  Other rules, however, especially those relating to classroom procedures, should be presented as suggestions.  Students can be encouraged to discuss, debate, amend, and then approve or reject these rules by voting.

4. Teacher defines the principles and students develop the rules.

Teachers present the principles that are most important to them and have the students

develop specific rules connected to each of these.

Discipline that involves students is more time-consuming at the beginning, but it is also more effective.  It takes longer to involve students as partners than it does to simply announce how things are going to be.  Involving students up front, however, means that fewer problems are likely to arise later and less time will be required for dealing with them.  Because of the high student turnover in most classrooms, classroom contracts require

frequent updating.