Seven Norms of Collaboration

Building a classroom community based on respect by intentionally teaching social and emotional skills all year!

Photo of Elizabeth Fitzgerald
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 Updates to idea including more resources and ways to adapt for all grade levels and subject areas:

One aspect of my master’s program was learning and utilizing the Seven Norms of Collaboration. As I practiced these norms in working with adults, I realized that my students were capable of using them too. Instead of a classroom management system that takes away points, recess, or stamps, I decided to approach this year differently. I adapted the Seven Norms of Collaboration to meet the needs of my students, and then I spent the first weeks of school teaching my students our norms and expectations of working together.

    Basically, I started by teaching a different skill each week, and initially had only very rough ideas about how to do it. I would introduce a norm to my students each Monday morning, we would talk through it, role play...etc, and then the expectation was that we would work hard and focus on that all week long. So, for example, if we were working on active listening and a student kept interrupting, I would stop my teaching, remind students of the expectation, and then practice it a few times. It was SLOW for a while, but the kids really soaked it in and have risen to the occasion! 

    Today, if you walk into my classroom, you see students setting social and academic goals for themselves, collaborating in groups, and monitoring progress toward their goals. Our discipline problems have been minimal — the occasional spat at recess — and I feel like our classroom community is built on deep respect. My students are comfortable living in a state of cognitive dissonance, and we have guidelines for how we disagree respectfully with one another. I cannot imagine teaching any other way, and most importantly, I hope that these are skills that stick with them for the rest of their lives.

    My original plan was to just teach the original seven norms of collaboration, but then it morphed into what the picture shows... I just kept adding a new skill every time I saw a need in my classroom. This week, for example, we are working on "Considering another perspective" because we have a new student in our classroom who only speaks Spanish and another new student transitioning from another classroom, so I thought my kids needed to be explicitly taught how we interact with people who think differently than us.

    I also ask the kids each week to set a personal goal for themselves about what they need to work on. At first some needed coaching about "You should work on...," and I had to model what my personal goal was, but again, now they've got it!