If you have read any of my other posts, you know how much I love sticky notes: big ones, small ones, colorful ones, plain ones, shaped notes, tall notes, short notes, every single kind of sticky note. I use them in lots of ways, but today, I’d like to share how I use sticky notes to create shared norms with a new group of educators, perfect for the beginning of the school year. It’s hands-on, colorful and gets teachers thinking in a hands-on-minds-on way. 

Here’s how to do it:
  • Stock the tables with PLENTY of sticky notes of all shapes, sizes and colors. Invite teachers to think about their personal needs and wants as a learner part of a learning community. Do they prefer small groups to larger ones? Do they value quiet think time or need to buzz through ideas? Do they feel more appreciated if time commitments are honored by all? What do they need to feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas? Do they prefer meaningful agendas or are they willing to see how the session unfolds?
  • After a bit of reflection, ask teachers to choose their top 3 - 5 needs for the learning community on individual sticky notes and adhere them to a large chart paper or even a section of the wall. If you prefer to try this digitally, you might ask teachers to contribute to a shared Padlet wall (but choose the ‘canvas’ format so you can move and arrange the tiles later on) or Google Jamboard.
  • Next, sort the sticky notes for related ideas and categories as a group, physically or digitally. What does this particular group value and need as adult learners?
  • Create a list of collaborative norms based on the results and have a candid discussion about them. Do these capture our needs and wants? Are we all comfortable following them? Keep these norms visible during your sessions and briefly remind teachers what they are at the start of each meeting together.
Why do I prefer this method over using a list of standard norms to follow? Because they are generated by the group of learners who are working together, they ensure that each and every teacher will have their needs met. It generates an atmosphere of mutual respect where each learner is valued. What better way is there to launch a new community of learners?

How do you generate norms with your teachers? Share your thinking in the comments!

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