(This is Part 3 in a mini-series on constructing a math syllabus. I hope it challenges you to think about possible ways to vision your classroom, even if you don’t utilize all the ideas. Check out the previous entries via the links below.)

Norms exist in every classroom, whether they are on a placard on the wall or not. There are ways of being and expected behaviors that accumulate over time such that they become normalized. These even happen in families: we fall into our “roles” as younger or older siblings, easy or stern parents. 

One of your goals at the beginning of the year should be to establish and teach desired norms and ways of working for your classroom. Among your goals throughout the year should be to revisit, reteach, and, if appropriate, replace the norms. 

What norms would you like to be present on your syllabus? Will you establish 4-5 norms on your syllabus or co-create them with your class? Or perhaps a mix?

Norm 1: Listen actively and respect the idea of others.Norm 2: Revisions are always accepted and encouraged.Norm 3: Work on the same problem at the same time. Norm 4: To be co-developed with youNorm 5: To be co-developed with you
Including norms on the syllabus – and even leaving space for new ones – helps communicate desired habits for collaborative groupwork.

More important than simply stating classroom norms is teaching and reflecting on them. In fact, I’d argue if you’re not going to teach and reflect on or revisit norms, might be better off not even having them. 

Teaching norms

Devote part of your first week or month of school to a deep dive into the norms individually. The most common practice I encourage is to consider and have students consider, what does the norm look like or sound like in action? What is the norm important?

One possible activity would be to assign groups an individual norm and highlight those very questions via a graphic or poster.

Once you have these artifacts you can quickly refer to them throughout the first week and throughout the year. They offer natural reflection questions at the end of the class period: which norm did your group excel at today?

Ask students to identify one of the norms they’d like to try and practice in a particular week. On Monday ask “which of these norms would you (or your group) like to focus on?” On Friday, as students to journal how well they achieved it. This is a practice you may wish to use throughout the school year.

The norms you establish begin on day one, including your willingness to set aside time to evaluate and uplift your desired norms. They belong in your syllabus and are a core part of your classroom. 

I hope you’re enjoying the miniseries! Stay tuned for Part 4. The next post is a fun one: a new, Hilbertian, approach to your scope and sequence.

Be sure to check out other posts in this Emergent Math Mini-Series

2 thoughts on “Math Syllabus Bootcamp Part 3: Norms. What are expectations for quality collaborative work?

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