Need a way to manage your afterschool program that even your students will enjoy? Try creating a social contract.

Social contracts are not a new concept. Starting in the Age of Enlightenment during the 1700s, they were used as a framework for how people and governments interact. In the learning environment, social contracts are an agreement between teachers and students about the values, rules and consequences for classroom behavior. It’s a framework to guide students in their activities and interactions with each other.

Similar to its other uses, a social contract for your afterschool program fosters social responsibility in students. This starts with taking responsibility for one’s own actions. When adhering to this type of contract, students must do their part to help the whole group to achieve a common goal.

In this way, a social contract may help to manage behavioral expectations, keep everyone on task and establish a safe, encouraging learning environment for every student. It can also promote:

  • Collaborative learning
  • Respect
  • Accountability
  • Engagement
  • Positive peer pressure

To create a social contract that will help manage behavior in afterschool as well as teach social responsibility, here are a few steps you can take.

6 Steps to Create a Social Contract for Your Afterschool Program

Before you begin, understand that social contracts are a collaborative framework designed by both teachers and students. Ensure students are actively involved in the development and that their voices are reflected in the contract.

What You Need:

What to Do:

1. Understand the problem(s)

Ask students to share problems they face at school or in your afterschool problem. You can do this as a group, individually or through a survey. Responses may include bullying, classroom disruptions or disrespectful behavior.

2. Brainstorm solutions

In this step, teachers and students will collaborate on solutions to the problems and write them on the board or large poster. It’s more effective to discuss how they should react when they encounter a specific problem instead of simply telling them not to behave. Also, it’s important for both teachers and students to use positive language when discussing solutions. For example, you’ll want to use positive vocabulary, be direct and avoid “don’t” statements.

3. Discuss students’ ideas

Although it may be tempting, you can’t account for every problem in the social contract. During this step, you’ll want to discuss each problem and get feedback from your students. Emphasize that the contract should include rules that everyone believes in. Also, teachers should ensure the list includes behavioral goals they feel are necessary. If needed, cast a vote and allow students to add any behavioral goals they may have missed while brainstorming.

4. Turn those ideas into rules

To finalize the rules, write them on the easel paper or poster board. The final social contract may include rules such as: Listen to others, have a positive attitude and do our best work.

5. Sign the contract

Once the rules are written and agreed upon, have students sign the contract. They can simply sign their name anywhere on the easel paper or poster board.

6. Review the contract

Hold regular sessions to discuss the social contract and assess progress. You can ask questions like, “How well are you upholding the contract?” or “What can we do to ensure everyone is following the rules?” This is a good time to determine if the contract should be amended.

In addition to reviewing the contract, you’ll want to revisit it on specific occasions. These may include:

  • At the beginning of the school year
  • After a long break
  • When you’re experiencing widespread disruption or misbehavior
  • At the beginning of a new activity or unit

Social contracts in afterschool are an agreement between teachers and students that guide behavior and foster important values, like social responsibility, collaboration and respect. Use these steps to create your own social contract and build a learning environment that’s safe, well-managed and encouraging.