Norming your class- WITH your students…

I know… did you EVER think I’d be saying it? NOPE! Me neither….

I have NEVER liked the idea of creating class rules with my students. I used to think the idea would take way too much time and I was certain students would never come up with the essential, all encompassing, simple, concise rules I’ve used every year…

Then I started working at Bricolage…

Last year I did a workshop with Responsive Classroom before the school year. We use responsive classroom strategies at our school. This workshop changed lots about what I do (especially in the first week, I still do TONS of this but some things are different now), none of which I’ve blogged about yet, but you’ve seen it in some classroom videos:

  1. I no longer do the “teacher” points for my classroom management system  that so many of you use or use and adaptation of.. (I will be blogging about this SOON… it has been a really important change for equity, and more specifically for my aim to actively fight systemic racism in my own class every day.)
  2. I use interactive modeling every week in my class and right now (at the beginning of the year, I use it all day every day)
  3. I now create class norms WITH my students

I have talked through #2 and #3 in multiple videos this week in La Familia Loca and spoke specifically about how it invests your students in your class right away.

If your STUDENTS are creating the norms, they’re inherently more invested in them… when you POINT to the norms that they’re not following there is more power and meaning in it, because THEY are the ones who came up with them…

That doesn’t however negate the fact that I like my norms a VERY specific way… I like that they’re simple, I like that they’re all encompassing, I don’t like the idea of changing them.. I’ve learned, however, that I can still make sure the norms I care about are  the general outcome, while still valuing and hearing their input (therefore gaining their investment). Ultimately, they all kind of come to the norms I value themselves! It is pretty awesome!

So, what does this look like?

First, students create their hopes and dreams for the class. (if you want the sheet I used with my students click here) They do this after I’ve introduced myself, like I talked about in the blog I wrote yesterday. I give them examples of what this might look like. They’re allowed to create long term or short term goals and dreams. Once they record those, I find a way for them to share them with movement (also in the blog I wrote yesterday).

Second, students are paired up with someone (in a fun way through a brain break) and they come up with 3 norms that will help them MEET their goals, hopes and dreams. Their norms must match, so they have to have a discussion over what are the BEST.

Next, each pair of students get paired with another. Now in the groups of 4, students share what they came up with and then discuss and come up with their favorite 4 norms total. They write those down.

For the next part, I’ve done this two different ways, both were successful… the first was what I did last year and the second was this year (after I had the students do this the year prior I made some simple adjustments since we didn’t need as much time).

  1. Students number off 1-4 and each  student takes one of the norms they came up with and write it on a giant piece of butcher paper, or a big white board or several chart papers posted up along the room
    • Then students (all kids) do a chalk talk and silently engage with the writing and circle or star norms they really like or agree with, they can add words too
      • I use one or TWO large butcher papers MAX for ALL of my classes together… I don’t want a different set of rules for every class but I want them all to feel like they have equitable voice in creating the norms
    • Then I determine, based on the charts, what the most important norms were to them and I write them in SIMPLE, concrete, ALL encompassing words…. (see below option 2)
  2. This year, I had students share out their favorite rule their group came up with to the whole group.
    • I told them I was reading all of their norms and papers for trends, and would record the them, come up with the most frequently stated norms, and told them I would clump similar ones together and reword them to make them simple if needed
    • Then I determined, based on their papers, what the most important norms were to them and I wrote them in SIMPLE, concrete, ALL encompassing words….

Last year’s norms were:

  3. 100% participation

This year’s norms are (I am presenting them tomorrow)

  1. Be Respectful
  2. Do your best
  3. BE in Spanish
  4. Be positive and have fun!

I am happy, they are happy, and we are ALL invested! Click here, or the image below to get access to this resource for free!

A final note…. I call them norms instead of rules also VERY intentionally and I name that to students. All my students in 5th grade and up are at an age where we can norm our space. Students and teacher are equally responsible for creating an environment where we can all feel safe, joyful and successful. Norms create that environment, not rules.

SIDE note…the faculty at my school spent a few hours at the beginning of our summer PD creating norms and we introduce EVERY meeting with these norms… We also took time to create them in our smaller PD groups (Co-curricular teachers created norms specific to our meetings… it is AWESOME)

I hope you’re all excited and energized about the new school year… I am exhausted… but happy to see my students and pleased about the community we’ve created together already…

Until next time,



La Maestra Loca


  1. I’m so doing this! Thank you for another amazing post! Take care of yourself! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  2. Thank you for sharing! I plan to do this with my high school students. They love having ownership and choices over what we do in class and, what a way to begin the year.❤👏

      1. Do you have a link/copy of the paper that the kids are writing on as they develop their norms?

      2. Hey Tashia! I think I answered you on FB already but just so others who are wondering know… the document was shared as an exclusive document for my patrons. It has a section for goals in addition to all the steps above. You could easily have kiddos do this in a journal if you prefer 🙂

  3. Hola! Me encanta tu idea , es posible tener el formato que los estudiantes tiene para desArrollar la actividad por favor , gracias

    1. Hey Maribel! I can’t share the form because it was an exclusive document for my patrons, but it just had a hopes and dreams section, a section for partners, section for groups and a final norms section

  4. AY! Mi Loquita!!! <3 I have been percolating this process since the end of last school year, wondering specifically how I'd nudge it in the direction I like (similar to YOU). Thank you for the detailed explanation. Annnd, especially for the conundrum I was having re: different classes n different norms, etc. YAAAAAYYYYY!!!! I'm all in!!! XXOO

  5. Hi Annabelle! I have been reading all your blog posts for hours upon hours over the last few days and I am filled with so much inspiration.
    I played around with points in my classes before but never tried the teacher point thing (I typically had my kids sitting in groups and each group earned points)…but after awhile the points lost their novelty and power, and despite me changing groups every other month or so, the same kids in different groups would always be the same “winning group” and I started noticing the inequity…
    Do you still do points at all? How do you implement them?
    Thanks for your time, care and passion.

    1. Yes I still do points but definitely whole group always… No teacher points anymore… just whole group. this is a REALLY important part of it… because if you don’t do this, you will experience what you witnessed… it is always the same kids getting the points and kids will not invest in that…. the kids you need to invest most will be the quickest to lose interest because they’ll feel like they’ll never get the points… I hope that makes sense! I will be doing a new points blog soon!

  6. I’m curious how you adapt for students and if I can get the paper you shared. What did you tell them – simply, share your hopes and dreams for how this classroom and your learning should look like? I want to know my students’ hopes and dreams but I’m not sure that would help in creating rules. 🙂

      1. I did this for 5th and 6th (and previously 7th 8th) with the paper and with younger grades 2nd and up we still talked through it all but they weren’t writing on individual papers. It’s still important that they’re part of the process and invested. All of this is based off of responsive classroom’s models for norming the class

    1. Once you have their hopes and dreams (first give them concrete examples) you ask them what will help them reach those… the paper was an exclusive document for my patrons this month but it would be easy to recreate based on which steps you want students to follow.

    1. Absolutely. With third and fourth last year I didn’t have them writing on individual sheets. They talked in pairs and groups but we shared out instead of writing. Their investment is important

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