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Hands All Around

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

This week's highlighted activity is Hands All Around - an awesome Social Contract activity for all ages!

Social Contracts are great ways to set norms with groups and can be added to throughout the school year. Are YOUR students in need of some re-norming? Learn how to lead in your class today!

Instructions: Be prepared to divide the class into groups of 4 to 6. Make sure you give all students instructions and directions before sending them on their way.

This social agreement is a wonderful tool to use when embarking on small group work. Each small group can create its own for the duration of the time it spends together. Younger students can brainstorm ideas as a whole class, then choose their top 5 or 10 to put on their small group sheet. Older students can have more time in their small groups to discuss what is important to them, and they need less structure when drawing the social agreement.

Play 1. Prepare to divide the class into groups of 4 to 6 in separate video conferencing rooms, and provide them the following instructions.

2. Have students brainstorm a list of words or phrases that describe how they want to be treated, and how they want to treat each other, in order to make their class a safe and respectful place to be. Have students use virtual whiteboard or chat function to keep track.

3. From this list, choose 10 that are most important to the group as a whole. Make sure that everyone understands the meanings of the words (e.g., define “cooperation” so that everyone agrees with what it means for the group).

4. Write the 10 agreed upon ideals in the middle of the frame. Read the 10 words/phrases out loud, and decide if you can agree to live by these ideals while in class. If so, sign your name near your hand or image. If not, discuss your concerns and modify your words to make it possible for everyone in your group to sign.

5. Choose one or more spokespersons to share your contract with the larger group.

Reflect Did you all agree on what to add to the list? What did and did not work for you?

Connect How did you decide on which words to use? Was it easy to agree? Do you understand all of the words that are used here? Give an example of each word. What do these actions look, sound, and feel like?

Grow How do you imagine yourself using this throughout the year? When might you want to remind yourself to revisit the list?

Academic Applications: This is a good strategy for established cooperative learning groups, each group can create its own. Putting a social agreement into place (and making it come alive in the classroom) creates an atmosphere where students feel comfortable learning, thus increasing academic achievement.

Extensions: Once the posters are up, periodically ask students to consider how they are meeting the parts of their contract. Use small green and red sticky notes—choose a green note to comment on what is going well and a red note to comment on problem areas. Then post notes next to the word with which it connects. Keep sticky notes handy so students can post one at any time. At the end or beginning of the day, check to see if any new posts need to be discussed as a small group or as a whole class.

(Thanks to Nancy Constable for this idea.)

Used with permission, Laurie S. Frank © 2013, Journey Toward the Caring Classroom, Wood N Barnes Publishing. See Laurie's book and more at