Saturday, 2 February 2019

Start of the year: teaching values to set your expectations for the year

In my opinion, there are two crucial things to begin the school year with - team building activities and values. It is these two things that help students to settle into their new classroom, establish connections with their peers and understand the expectations.

Beginning the year with values (either school or the Key Competencies in NZ) is absolutely imperative for a number of reasons...
  1. It sets up expectations for how you want your students to work and behave for the year.
  2. It will be useful when creating your class contract or treaty.
  3. It can be used to create a meaningful wall display. It is something that the students would have had an active role in creating, which can be used as a point of reference and a constant reminder of the values and expected behaviour your the classroom.
  4. Is a great way for students to start learning how to work collaboratively.

This year at Glen Innes School, we have introduced our brand new school values. They are Responsibility, Effort, Ako, Commitment and Honesty... aka REACH. Since it was our first year with school values, it was super important that students made a connection to them. I expect my students to become role models to the rest of the school in showing the REACH values.  Here is how I have taught them to my classroom.

Bus stop rotation

The purpose: This activity helped students to recognise what they already knew about each of the school values - aka their prior knowledge. It is also a great way to maintain enthusiasm and energy, as students are at each station for a short period of time, and have to get up and move to each station.

Preparation: I created a Google Doc which I printed out as a3 and double sided. For each REACH value, there were four sections: What is it? Definition in a sentence, What would happen if we did use (value)? and What would happen if we did not use  (value)? Each 'value' is stationed at a specific group of desks.

'Bus Stop' activity in action
  1. Students get into groups and begin at a specific 'station', where a large sheet of paper and some questions/prompts on it (or just one question/prompt if you want). 
  2. Students work collaboratively to record their responses to the first question. 
  3. After about 3-4 minutes, students get up and move to the next 'station'. 
  4. Then, students read what the previous group has written, and adds their own ideas to the first question. If they feel they can, they move to the second question on their new sheet. 
  5. This cycle continues until the teacher feels the students all have shared enough ideas and they have a good understanding of the topic.
  6. Then come together as a classroom to have a conversation about what they can remember about each value.

Class discussion of the values 

Students' suggestions of values
Since it was the first time using these class values, we also had a discussion about their general thoughts on each value, as well as values that they felt were also really important. It was interesting that some students felt like commitment was not that important, as it could be tied into responsibility and effort. Students also spoke about Attitude, Respect, Perseverance and Courage. I was very proud of my students for being able to think critically and come up with additional values that could be used in our classroom. As a side note, students will soon come up with a response to the values and propose the addition of Courage into our school values (which I think is awesome!).

What does each value 'look' like?

After the bus stop activity, the class came together to think about how we could show our school values in the classroom. Students had to share their ideas on a collaborative Padlet, which was displayed on our Activboard. For this task, I let students work in peers. I explained that students would need these ideas for the next task.

Made with Padlet

Walking the walk

Next, in groups of around 6, students were tasked with staging photographs which showed the students using each value. I also told them that they could edit them with speech and thought bubbles to make each value clear.

Some of my students photos to show our school values

Creating a DLO 

A DLO (Digital Learning Object) is Manaiakalani speak for 'creating something to show what you have learnt'. Since a lot of students haven't done this before, the school values lessons are a great way to introduce DLOs. Students work in groups of 3 to create a DLO that explains their understanding of the school values. For each value, students MUST

  • Have their own explanation of the value (use the bus stop activity and Padlet to help them)
  • Include a their photo that shows the value in action (they can add in thought or speech bubbles to make the value more explicit)
  • Explanation of why the value is important.

Quick plenary

As a second form of the 'bus stop' activity, students share what each value means. For this activity, cut up coloured paper (a different colour for each value) into strips. Again, I created stations for each of the values, and included a new value - courage, to the task. Students had to write their ideas in big letters so that it could be easily seen on the wall. 

This task is great because it serves as a plenary AND you can use it for your wall display, saving you from writing or typing them out yourself. Also, having the students write their ideas themselves makes the wall display more purposeful and meaningful.

Make it a wall display

Make some lettering, print out the photos and staple everything onto your wall. And there you have it, your first, purposeful and student-created wall display!

Our values wall display. Next to it is our class jobs and class dojo rewards and consequences (we came up with this as a class). Underneath those will be our class contract.

What's next?

Now you can use your lessons and wall display to help create your class contract or treaty. You can also refer back to your wall display to reinforce expectations in your classroom.


  1. What a carefully and cleverly constructed learning sequence Chelsea. I enjoyed the images you captured to explain this and appreciated the thorough explanation of the why as well as the what.

    1. Thank you Dorothy! I find teaching values incredibly useful for setting up classroom expectations, so I thought I would share what I do to help others.


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