Developing a Social Contract or Classroom Rules

A Social Contract is an agreement between teacher and students about the values, rules and consequences for classroom behavior. It's purpose is establishing rules and consequences based on guiding principles or values that will guide students in their activities and interactions together. It should be astrategy that involves student decision-making, input and commitment to empower students with the teacher as a guide and negotiator.

Guidelines for developing effective social contracts


Step 1

Identify the implicit or non-negotiable rules. Those things we’re supposed to do in certain situations and those things we’re not supposed to do in certain situations. These must be stated explicitly to avoid misunderstandings because assumptions cause problems leading to anger and a breakdown of communication. Discussion of these rules will lead to better understanding and consistency.

Step 2

Get the students to agree to have two sets of rules and help students understand the different between the two sets and why the first set of rules is less flexible.

  1. The set of non-negotiable already in place school rules that everyone must obey as well as the federal, state,and local ordanances and school board.
  2. And the second set, which is a negotiable classroom set, which everyone would like to have. Keep these short concise and positive.


Step 3

Explain that rules are primarily for people to know what the expectations are for those that are part of the group the rules are created for. Tell them that they are going to propose rules that are fair and will help everyone to use to be successful. Then start with rules for the teacher.

Once the student expectations for the teacher are made, then the teacher can respond and a discussion take place. A vote can be taken for each item or collectively. If the vote has been for each, then a final vote should be taken for final adoption and the results can be post in the classroom.

This process can help build group solidarity, help to identify what students believe is important and what they expect from their teacher.

Consequences for teacher violations can be added. Such as: apologize, free time for the class, canceling homework, or giving students a choice of activities

Step 4

Students propose rules and consequences for each other

Identify what expectations are essential and respectful

Step 5

Rules and consequences are discussed

Students discuss items – then vote

Step 6

Adopt and post in the classroom


Curwin, Mendler & Mendler (2008). Discipline with Dignity. New Challenges, New Solutions.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's Notes ©