If you’ve been in education for any length of time, you’ve probably created, at one time or another, some sort of social contract, classroom constitution, classroom compact, etc…
I dread them.
The activity always felt repetitive, unoriginal, and seemed to involve a lot of wasted to time to arrive at a product that looked virtually the same every year. In addition, I felt the pain of my poor secondary students, who had to do it in every single teacher’s classroom at the beginning of the year — probably not the most interesting way to launch a new learning adventure.
However, there are some benefits to the social contract, of course. And many schools require them to be posted in the classroom, a signed reminder to the students of their agreement to contribute to a positive learning environment. It’s not a terrible idea, just inherently boring if you have to do it with each and every teacher throughout your entire school career.
I’m about to present my “Harnessing Hexagons” workshops next week for Northside (yay, NISD, can’t wait to see you!) and I was playing around with new, meaningful ways to use hexagonal thinking. I noticed there are currently a lot of visits to my page, “Getting to Know You Hexagons,” and it hit me that maybe there was a way to use hexagonal thinking to create these social contracts, too. (Note: I’m not suggesting you do both of these activities on the first day, because that would be a bit redundant — something we are actually trying to avoid.)
Since I’ve been playing around with Chat GPT a lot, I decided to see what it thought about this idea. Here was the lesson it generated with my first prompt:
Title: Co-designing our Classroom Social Contract using Hexagonal Thinking Objective: Students will engage in the process of hexagonal thinking to collaboratively design a classroom social contract, embodying the values and behaviors they believe will create a respectful, engaging, and effective learning environment. Materials:
- Hexagonal cut-outs or sticky notes
- Large poster paper/board for arranging hexagons
Warm-Up (5 minutes): Begin by sharing the purpose of the social contract. Briefly discuss what a social contract is and why it’s important for a classroom environment. Ask students to think about their ideal classroom environment and the values and behaviors that would contribute to it.
Introduction to Hexagonal Thinking (10 minutes): Introduce Hexagonal Thinking as a strategy that visually represents connections between ideas or concepts. Explain that each hexagon will represent one word or phrase – a value or behavior they want to see in the classroom. Show an example of hexagonal thinking and how the connecting sides of the hexagon represent a relationship between the ideas.
Brainstorming (10 minutes): Hand out hexagonal cut-outs or sticky notes and markers to each student. Ask each student to write down one or more words or short phrases that represent values, behaviors, or norms they think should be part of the classroom social contract. Each word or phrase goes on a separate hexagon.
Hexagonal Thinking Activity (10 minutes): After they’ve written down their ideas, bring the students together around the poster paper/board. Invite students to place their hexagons on the board and explain why they chose those particular words or phrases, and how they connect to other ideas already on the board. Encourage them to actively rearrange and connect the hexagons as the discussion progresses.
Review and Reflect (5 minutes): Once all the hexagons are on the board and connected, take a step back and look at the web of ideas that the class has created. Invite students to reflect on the ideas on the board. Is there consensus? Are there surprising connections? Does this represent the kind of classroom environment they want? End the lesson by informing students that in the next class, you will collectively turn these ideas into a formal classroom social contract. The hexagonal thinking board will stay up as a reminder of the agreed values and behaviors. Note: Keep the pace brisk, transitions quick, and discussions focused to keep within the time limit. Adjustments might be needed depending on your students’ familiarity with these concepts and activities.
To be honest, this is not a ground-breaking lesson plan. I definitely could have generated this myself.
So I thought I would ask Chat GPT to spice it up a bit. I learned (from Nicole Leffer on TikTok) about an interesting sentence that you can add to your prompts in order to give an idea of the creativity level you’re looking for. “The temperature setting is …” Complete the sentence with a number from 0-1.9. Supposedly, 1.9 is asking for the most out-0f-the-box answer. I gave it a whirl. Here is the response:
Title: “Social Contract Design with Hexagonal Galaxy Creation” Objective: In this wild and space-themed adventure, students will employ hexagonal thinking to collaboratively fabricate a “Classroom Social Contract Galaxy”, symbolizing the values and behaviors that will power our starship classroom through the educational cosmos.
- Hexagonal “Star” cut-outs or sticky notes
- “Cosmic” markers
- Large black poster paper/board for arranging the galaxy (stars)
- An epic space-themed playlist
- Star-shaped stickers
Pre-Launch Briefing (5 minutes): Begin by introducing the mission – to travel together through the vast cosmos of learning, and to successfully reach our destination, we need to establish our starship’s commandments (social contract). Briefly discuss the importance of these commandments for our exciting educational journey.
Hexagonal Galaxy Introduction (5 minutes): Reveal that each star (hexagonal cut-out) represents a cosmic law – a value or behavior they wish to establish in our spaceship. Show a prototype of a galaxy made from stars and how connecting sides signifies the gravitational pull between these cosmic laws.
Star Creation (10 minutes): Distribute star cut-outs and cosmic markers to each student. Ask each astronaut to etch one or more cosmic laws they believe should guide our voyage.
Galaxy Formation (15 minutes): Commence the galaxy formation by gathering the astronauts around the dark expanse of the poster board. One by one, students place their stars on the board, explaining why they chose those specific laws and how they relate to other stars in our galaxy. Encourage them to actively shift and connect stars as the cosmic discussions continue, and play an epic space-themed soundtrack to enhance the experience.
Reflection and Space Dance (5 minutes): Once all the stars have found their place in the cosmos, take a moment to admire the newly formed galaxy. Offer star-shaped stickers to students to place on the hexagons they resonate most with. Host a short “space dance” to celebrate the co-created galaxy. Conclude the class by saying, “This is our Classroom Galaxy, each star a beacon guiding our learning journey. Remember its constellation, for it is our shared responsibility to navigate the educational cosmos in harmony.” Note: Emphasize the importance of staying on-task and focused during the galaxy formation, ensuring all astronauts have their say in shaping the commandments of our shared journey. The space-themed elements should enhance the experience, not detract from the objective. Adjustments might be needed depending on your students’ familiarity with these concepts and activities.
Okay. So this might have been a bit too out-of-the-box. I kind of of like the theme idea, but A.) Hexagons look nothing like stars and B.) A SPACE DANCE?!!!! Ha! Try having middle school kids do that, especially on the first day of school.
So, last try. I ratcheted down my temperature setting to 1.0. We still got a theme, but it seemed more realistic. Not sure about the hard-hat idea, but that could work with some of the primary grades. (Also, I think the final notes, Chat GPT keeps giving me are hilarious — like I don’t know that I need to keep kids “focused and efficiently moving.”)
Title: “Classroom Constitution: Hexagonal Building Blocks of Respect”
Objective: Students will activate their inner architects and participate in an interactive construction project using hexagonal blocks, also known as the “Hex-Blocks of Respect.” These blocks symbolize various behaviors and values, which will contribute to our Classroom Constitution.
- Hexagonal cardstock cut-outs or sticky notes, referred to as “Hex-Blocks”
- A large display board or wall space for arranging the Hex-Blocks
- Construction hats (for fun, if available)
Laying the Foundation (5 minutes):Begin with the rationale behind the Classroom Constitution. Explain how each “Hex-Block” represents a value or behavior essential for building a positive and productive learning environment. Encourage students to consider the values and behaviors they think are necessary for their classroom community.
Architects’ Training (5 minutes):Introduce Hexagonal Thinking as the blueprint of our Classroom Constitution. Explain that each Hex-Block represents a behavior or value. Show an example of a structure made of Hex-Blocks, explaining how connecting sides symbolize a relationship between the values or behaviors.
Construction Phase (15 minutes):Distribute Hex-Blocks and markers to students. Ask each student to inscribe a behavior or value they think should be included in the Classroom Constitution.
Building the Constitution (10 minutes):Now, gather the student-architects around the display board or wall. One by one, they’ll place their Hex-Blocks onto the board, explaining why they selected those values or behaviors and how they connect to others. Encourage students to actively rearrange and connect blocks as more blocks are added and more connections are formed.
Final Review (5 minutes):Once all blocks are in place, step back and reflect on the newly constructed Classroom Constitution. Discuss the interconnectedness of the values and behaviors. Does the Classroom Constitution reflect the kind of learning environment students want?
Conclude by informing students that they’ve laid the foundation for a supportive, respectful, and collaborative classroom community. The structure will remain visible throughout the year as a reminder of the constitution they co-created.
Note: It’s crucial to keep the class focused and efficiently moving through each phase of the lesson to stay within the allotted time frame. Depending on your students’ familiarity with the concepts and activities, adjustments might be needed.
I think I could actually use this one with a couple of tweaks. What about you?
If you are new to hexagonal thinking, I have a ton of previous posts on it. It’s, frankly, my favorite way to encourage group discussions. There are many, many ways to make your hexagons that I relate in my “Harnessing Hexagons” presentation, but one quick way is to use the HookED Solo Generator from Pam Hook (Queen of Hexagonal Thinking).
So, to sum up:
- Try using hexagonal thinking to create your classroom compact.
- Try using Chat GPT to help you think of lesson ideas (along with the temperature setting prompt).
- Consider inviting me to present “Harnessing Hexagons” to your staff (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- And make sure you “keep the class focused and efficiently moving through each phase of the lesson” — because you probably prefer complete chaos in your classroom but, for some strange reason Chat GPT doesn’t advise that approach:)