Creating Shared Work Time Norms and Expectations

Utilizing student input to develop shared work time expectations is key to successful learning task management
250 teachers like this strategy
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About This Strategy

By creating expectations and norms of what students are expected to be doing during group work, teachers can elevate student voice and manage student behavior during small group work time or during a station rotation. Students can own the expectations and feel confident and productive when they are engaging in learning tasks because they thoroughly understand the expectations. By creating shared expectations, the students can have a say in the consequences when expectations are not met.  This empowers students to have a voice in both the setting of expectations and the consequences for not meeting those expectations. 

Implementation Steps

10 minutes
  1. Before beginning group work, teachers should have a discussion with students about how developing work time expectations together will support students in having a say in what work time should look like  by creating an anchor chart. To learn more about anchor charts, consult the "Anchor Chart" strategy. During this time, they can also think about consequences for when expectations are not met.

  2. The work time expectations may vary slightly from your regular classroom expectations, so it is important to develop both of these for students.  Some teachers might call them norms of work time.

  3. The class should discuss what it looks like and sounds like to be productively working in a group or alone including what it looks like to get out materials and put materials away. To learn more about this strategy, consult the "Y Chart" strategy.

  4. The shared expectations and consequences should be charted and displayed in the classroom once they have been agreed upon.

  5. Revisit the expectations before students engage in group work and model the expectations regularly.

  6. As the students or tasks grow or change, revisit the expectations and change as needed.

Supporting Students to Work Together Online

Learning how to effectively collaborate online is a new skill for many students. This strategy supports you to plan for effective and productive online student collaboration.

Implementation steps:

  1. Decide how you want your students to work online. As norms change according to the task, ask yourself the following questions: 

    • Will students be online together at the same time or will they be working on their own asynchronously? For example, will students be engaging in a live video conference via a tool like Zoom or in an asynchronous video like Flipgrid?

    • What will students be expected to do during the collaborative online work time? For example, will they be asked to respond to questions on a discussion board or work together on a document or presentation?

  2. Before having students work online collaboratively, discuss with students how online and in-person collaborative work norms are similar and different. Consider making a Venn diagram like the one included in the resource section below to show what in-person classroom norms could be vs. what online norms could be.  

  3. Develop online collaborative work norms with students. To learn more about creating norms, consult BetterLesson's Developing Norms for Effective Group Work strategy included below. Be sure to have students brainstorm what to do if/when they have a disagreement or if a member isn't fully participating.  

  4. Choose an appropriate group size that works best for the task.  Groups of 2- 4 students are often best for active online engagement.

  5. Make sure to have clear roles for each member. To learn more about how to do this, consult the Example of Group Roles resource below. 

  6. Virtually or in your classroom, model and practice active listening and how to ask pertinent questions to keep the discussion moving. Consult BetterLesson's Active Listening strategy to learn more about how to do this. 

  7. Have the group set goals by using the Digital Group Goal Setting Plan and Group Contract included below.

  8. Have clear expectations for group member feedback. See BetterLessons' Giving and Receiving Feedback strategy, as well as the Peer Evaluation forms included below.

  9. Consider accountability.  You will need to decide how to assess the task itself, and also how to make the online learning process part of the assessment.  See the resource titled Online Group Work Rubric for an example of how to assess the group's work and their collaboration online.

EL Modification

For English Learners, teachers could have picture support for each of the work time expectations so that students will have a visual cue to remember what is expected.  

A teacher could also have students model what the correct behavior looks like multiple times so students can see what they should be doing, and they should make sure to ask a variety of students to model the behaviors over the course of many days.

Questions to Consider

  • When will you develop the expectations with students?

  • When will you have students model the expectations?

  • How long will you review the expectations before students know and are able to use them during work time?

  • How will you share this information with new students when they arrive?

Coach Tips

Natalee Hawks
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Initially setting up the work time expectations should be a conversation and take about 15-30 minutes.  It is vital that the expectations are revisited and modeled throughout the day. These reminders could take 5-10 minutes and should happen frequently at first.  Over time, the expectations should be revisited and should be posted for students to reference.