Saturday, 02 October 2010 17:45

Tip #6: Class Mission Statement (Part 2 of 3)

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During this three-week period I describe the most powerful move that we, as teachers, can make to establish a sense of purpose in our rooms - creating a Class Mission Statement with our students and referring to it throughout the year for guidance.  After introducing the concept of a mission statement in Part 1, this week I outline the steps you and your students can follow to create a founding document that brings together the ideas of everyone in the room.

The Teaching Tips for this three-week period follow the sequence shown below.

Week 1: Introducing the Class Mission Statement
Week 2: A Step-by-Step Process for Creating a Class Mission Statement With Our Students
Week 3: Using the Class Mission Statement as a Reference Point Throughout the Year

A Step-by-Step Process for Creating a Class Mission Statement With Our Students
I have found that a four-day process works well for creating a Class Mission Statement.

Day 1
Begin the process of creating your class mission statement by discussing the word “mission.”  I have found that kids more easily understand the term when I introduce it as part of the phrase “on a mission.”  I tell them that when people are on a mission, they are determined to accomplish something important.  I accompany my definition with examples of historical figures, athletes, and other well-known individuals who were determined to accomplish important things, names such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Susan B. Anthony; and Michael Jordan.  Next, I ask students to share personal stories of when they have been on a mission.  I then explain that when groups of people come together to work as a team, they frequently create something called a mission statement to express the important things that they want to accomplish.  

Next, working either alone or in pairs or small groups, students answer the questions listed below.


Who are we?
Why is it important to come to school to learn?
What goals are we determined to reach together?
What kind of class do we want to be?
What actions and behaviors must we demonstrate each day to reach our goals?

The kids will later draw on their responses to these questions when they create the first draft of the class mission statement.  I also include these five questions in the homework packet so students have an opportunity to discuss their ideas with family members.  Sending the questions home with the kids accomplishes the following: 1) it gets parents and children talking about fundamental issues that are too often left undiscussed, 2) it involves parents early in the school year in a meaningful project and shows them that you value their participation in the educational process, 3) it greatly increases the likelihood that the kids will generate high quality, thoughtful responses.

Days 2 &3
Show the kids actual corporate and organizational mission statements to familiarize everyone with the format and substance of this type of writing.  Mission statements are readily available in stores and restaurants, as well as online.  Try to use examples from companies with which children are familiar, such as Disney.  Emphasize to your kids that groups of people create these documents to describe who they are and what they want to become.  
As you read through these examples with your class, chart or highlight the words and phrases that the kids think would be appropriate for a classroom mission statement.  Pay special attention to powerful language that conveys high expectations.

Day 4
Now, it is time for the kids, working either alone or in pairs or small groups, to use the answers to the five questions from Day 1 and the charted words from the examples in Day 2 and Day 3 to begin drafting the class mission statement.  I give my students three choices as to how they wish to contribute to the drafting process.  I believe it is appropriate to differentiate the process at this point due to variations in students’ readiness and in their overall comfort level with this type of project.
Encourage your most ambitious students to try to write a complete class mission statement.  These 2-3 paragraph efforts should address all five of the previously mentioned questions and include many of the words and phrases you charted.  Kids who undertake this challenge, however, should also include thoughts and ideas of their own.  Nobody should feel bound or constrained by these other two sets of ideas.  Sometimes, the sentences that best convey the mission of the class are those that students create all by themselves.  
Students who may not feel confident or comfortable enough to create an entire mission statement can still make an equally valuable contribution to the project by choosing one of the other two drafting alternatives.  With both of these options, the students should still draw from their responses to the five questions, the charted words, and their own imaginations.  Kids who choose the first option should list individual words that they want to see in the final class statement; those selecting the second should write individual phrases and sentences.  The latter two options can also be combined, affording students the opportunity to write individual words and short phrases.  A final possibility allows kids to begin by listing words and then follow up by connecting pairs of words in order to form short phrases.  For example, if a child listed the words “achieve” and “quality,” she could then draw a line connecting them, thus creating the phrase “achieve quality.”  
Regardless of which option the kids choose, the students should feel no pressure - there is no right or wrong.  This time is simply an opportunity for each child to offer input as to how the final statement will read.  Motivation will be high as the kids work seriously to craft a class statement.  Your students will appreciate the chance to do something they view as “adult.”   

The last step in the missioning process requires us, the teachers, to read the drafts and combine them into a formal class statement.  You will notice from the students’ papers that several major themes recur.  In the final draft include these commonly expressed ideas as well as any outstanding words, phrases, or sentences that appear only once or twice.  
Creating the final draft is not an easy task.  At first, you may find yourself with a mission statement that’s fifteen pages long because you didn’t want to leave anyone’s input out, or you may not know where to start because you see so many fine ideas spread out in front of you.  To simplify the task, I create a sheet with the five questions printed on it.  As I read each student’s paper, I take the best ideas and write them under the questions that those ideas address.


I have uploaded my completed "Mission Statement Note-taking Sheet" from this year into the “Classroom Resources” section of the website.  Once the best ideas from each student’s paper are listed, we need to weave these ideas together into a cohesive statement.


I have uploaded our brand new Class Mission Statement into the “Classroom Resources” section of the website.

A comprehensive treatment of this topic can be found in Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8: Bringing Out the Best in Your Students.


New Teaching Tips appear every Sunday of the school year.