Your rules or my rules?

Teaching isn’t easy. It never has been. It never will be. But Social Contracts can make a teacher’s life much easier if implemented correctly.

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Social Contract created by 2nd graders

The picture above is my very first Social Contract my students created. It’s messy. It’s colorful. It’s ALL created by the students. This is what makes it effective.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Social Contracts, pay attention! These things can make your classroom run much more smoothly if you let them. Social Contracts are “rules” created for the classroom by the students themselves. Instead of writing down the rules you expect the kids to follow, you allow the students to come up with the rules that they feel should be followed in order to feel safe and productive in the classroom. And I have to give it to them–they always come up with the same things I would write down, just stated a little differently.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

I always want my students to follow 3 simple rules: Be safe, Be respectful, and Listen carefully. It never fails, students come up with many more rules than I would give them. There is always a different amount, from class to class, year to year. Some groups feel that they need LOTS of rules spelled out for them, while others can group many of them together into one rule in which they agree. I let the students decide how many there will be and how they are worded on the SC.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

You’re probably wondering how this all comes about. First, I hand out marker boards and markers to each student and have them generate rules they think are necessary. Next, I put them into groups of about 4-5 and have them share out with each other. They come up with one list compiled from all the students in the group. After that, I ask each group to share out 1 rule that is on their list. We talk about it, what it looks like and sounds like, and then add it to the chart. Students are the only ones who write down the rules. This helps students to value it and take ownership of the rules they are creating. As each group shares out, any other group that has the same rule will cross it out so that there are no repeated rules on the chart. We do this until all groups have shared everything. If we feel that one rule can be categorized with another rule, we talk about it and if ALL students agree, we leave the rule as it stands on the chart. If even one student feels that the rule should be separate, then we add it. Once all rules are written down, each student is invited to sign their name on the contract.

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Social Contract created by 4th graders

As with anything else, there are other ways to do this. In lower grades, the teacher would have to write the rules or designate a child that already knows all of the letters and is capable of doing it. It doesn’t matter if everything is spelled correctly or not, as long as the students understand what the rules are.

If you don’t already use Social Contracts in your classroom, I strongly recommend that you start this year! If you have any questions on how to make this work for you, or if you currently use these and have something to add, please do!!



  1. Hey Kayla, great idea, thx for posting! Maybe you could let the students define some of their learning goals this way, too? Let’s say two hours a week, you work with the students on reaching their learning goals, e.g. understanding how a spaceship flies or being able to take a portrait photograph. You know, today there are tons of tutorials and stuff on the internet and with some help of you, the students can learn almost everything (btw do you know the “Zone of proximity development”?).
    Would like to read about your thoghts and experiment results, keep up the great work!
    Have a great day & may the force be with you,


  1. […] 1. Social Contracts:  On the first day of school, I always create a social contract with each group of students.  I don’t like to give rules to my students.  Instead, I let them set the rules, and social contracts make this go much smoother.  I’ve found that the students are actually harder on themselves than I ever would be, and they always come up with the same rules that I would give them, but just worded in their own words.  For more information on how to manage this activity and some of the thinking behind it, click here –> Social Contracts. […]

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