Tuesday Tips: The Classroom Mission Statement

Last week I shared how I used the Consensogram in my class to help students choose areas of focus for the year.  This week, I will share the extension for the consensogram: the classroom mission statement.

After students have determined their five areas of focus, I ask them to brainstorm answers to a set of questions. These are questions that we regularly use in Writing Project and that come from the work of Leslie Patterson, Royce Holladay, and Glenda Eoyang of the Human Systems Dynamics Institute.  To read more great ideas like this one, see their upcoming book Radical rules for schools: Adaptive action for complex change.  Here are the questions:

1. Who Are We?

  • For this question, I ask students to think about identity. How do they identify themselves? What are two or three ways in which they would define themselves?   I collect these, and then we try to condense them into the most important definitions.
  • My class decided that diversity was an important part of their identity, so we included that.

2. What Are We About?

  • This question is about values.  I ask the students to brainstorm (in their writer’s notebooks, of course) about the best classes they have ever had.  This is not about classes that were “cool,” by the way. Have you ever noticed that when a student says “That teacher is so cool,” the statement that follows is usually, “She never makes us do anything”?  Yeah, me too. So, I ask the students to think about classes a) they enjoyed and b) in which they actually learned.

Here is our brainstorming about our values. Notice that they would really like a) smaller classes (please take note communities and policy makers: I did not prompt them to say that) and b) candy:


  • My class decided that the qualities they enjoy and that help them learn were having fun, group activities, participation, clear lessons that don’t require lots of repetition, and challenge.  Yes, my friends, students like to be challenged.  They may not remember that when there actually is a challenge, but the mission statement will serve as a reminder.

3. What is Our Work Together?

  • The five areas of focus determined by the consensogram should answer this question.

We wrote the answers to these questions into a statement, which I wrote on the board:


Then I typed out the mission statement, laminated it, and hung it at the front of the room:


I also printed small copies of the statement and had each student glue it into the front of his or her writer’s notebook:


As we go through the year, the mission statement serves as a reminder of what we have said we value and which areas of literacy we will focus on and measure.

Have any of you tried creating a classroom mission statement? What was your process for this?

Patterson, L., Holladay, R., and Eoyang, G. (2013). Radical rules for schools: Adaptive action for complex change.Circle Pines, MN: Human Systems Dynamics Institute.


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