What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?
How can we work together to create an open, supportive, and reflective learning community?
Students will come together to develop a contract that establishes a reflective classroom environment where students feel known and heard.
The purpose of this first lesson is to help the class develop an environment that is conducive to learning and sharing. Throughout this scheme of work, students will be talking about sensitive topics, such as social class, gender expectations, and discrimination, and how those concepts can impact individuals’ choices and actions, both in the world of the text and in students’ own lives. It is, therefore, important that a supportive and a reflective classroom community has been established to help students discuss these topics as and when they arise.
In this lesson, students work together to create a contract, with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, where students are known and know one another. Creating a classroom contract is an important step in fostering and maintaining a community where students honour and value differing perspectives, question assumptions, voice their opinions, and actively listen to others. When students feel empowered to contribute honestly and wrestle with multiple perspectives besides their own, such discussions can be positive and even life-changing. Moreover, when students are involved in the creation of a classroom contract alongside their teacher, rather than receiving the rules from their teacher, they are more likely to take responsibility for upholding the norms and expectations that the group establishes to guide their interactions and discussions.
This lesson is an important foundation lesson that you can use at the start of any scheme of work. We recommend that you and your students revisit the classroom contract periodically to review your agreed upon norms, especially before engaging with challenging content and discourse activities.
Depending on your students and their readiness for contracting, consider using one or both of the following activities to replace Steps 2 and 3 in the Activities section of the lesson plan. Alternatively, you can spread contracting over multiple class periods and incorporate the following activities into this lesson plan:
- Reflect on a List of Norms
- If you think the class would benefit from starting the contracting conversation in a more concrete way, you can share a list of norms that other Facing History classrooms have developed. Ask students to discuss what they think about the following norms. Which ones do they think would help their class create a brave, respectful, productive learning environment?
- Listen with respect. Try to understand what someone is saying before rushing to judgement.
- Make comments using ‘I’ statements.
- If you do not feel safe making a comment or asking a question, write the thought in your journal. You can share the idea with your teacher first and together come up with a safe way to share the idea.
- If someone says an idea or question that helps your own learning, say thank you.
- If someone says something that hurts or offends you, do not attack the person. Acknowledge that the comment – not the person – hurt your feelings and explain why.
- Put-downs are never okay.
- If you don’t understand something, ask a question.
- Think with your head and your heart.
- Share the talking time – provide room for others to speak.
- Do not interrupt others while they are speaking.
- Write thoughts in your journal if you don’t have time to say them during class.
- Journal responses do not have to be shared publicly.
- Then invite students to edit the list by deleting, revising, or adding to it so it reflects the norms they are committed to upholding together this year.
- Discuss Possible Scenarios
- Another way to help students develop a contract is to have them envision what they would like to see happen in certain scenarios. Scenarios can be drawn from students’ own experiences. They might include situations such as:
- When we have an idea or question we would like to share, we can. . .
- When we don’t feel comfortable sharing an idea out loud, we can. . .
- When someone says something that we appreciate, we can. . .
- When someone says something that feels confusing, we can. . .
- When someone says something that feels offensive, we can. . .
- To make sure all students have the opportunity to participate in a small-group discussion, we can. . .
- To make sure all students have the opportunity to participate in a whole-group discussion, we can. . .
- If we read or watch something that makes us feel sad or angry, we can. . .
- To show respect for the ideas of others, we can. . .