Sunday, August 17, 2014

Using Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate to create Essential Agreements

During the second week of school, the authors of The First Six Weeks of School (Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete) suggest working together with students to formulate and agree upon a set of classroom rules. In the Primary Years Program, this set of rules is referred to as the Essential Agreement.

The collaborative creation of this important classroom document should be preceded by naming and sharing hopes and dreams for the school year. Although this post's focus is creating the Essential Agreement with a Visible Thinking Routine, it is important to note here that the Essential Agreement should only be created once teachers and students have shared what they hope to achieve during the school year.

One first grade teacher led her students through the Visible Thinking Routine Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate (from Making Thinking Visible by Ritchhart, Church, and Morrison) to create their classroom's essential agreement.

After discussing with the students what their hopes and dreams were for the summer session, this teacher had each student generate rules on small squares of paper that would help them achieve those hopes and dreams.

Next, the class sorted the rules into meaningful groups, which they labeled in positive terms: be safe, try your best, be respectful.

The teacher emphasized the fact that these three expectations were all connected by drawing thick lines between them.

Then, students elaborated on the groups, adding three new behaviors: do what you're told, help friends, take turns when we want to talk.

Finally, the students all signed the Essential Agreement, agreeing to be safe, to be respectful, and to try their best.

After reading about how this first grade teacher created her classroom's Essential Agreement with her students using the Visible Thinking Routine Generate-Sort-Connect-Elaborate with her students, how have you or could you use this or other Visible Thinking Routines to create this important classroom document with your students?

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