At Success Academy, we talk a lot about how important it is to have clear and consistent expectations for kids. This helps build trust and safety in classrooms and across schools and is vital to creating a joyful and productive learning environment. Recently, the Robertson Center hosted a workshop on Building an Excellent Classroom Culture for school leaders and teachers where we discussed the roles clarity and precision play in building an excellent classroom culture.
During the workshop, we introduced the gray box, a tool SA educators use when creating school-wide systems and classroom routines at the beginning of the year, then again later in the year when we’re revisiting and refining them. Its goal is to help educators think through different parts of a school day when expectations for students are unclear and, as a result, have become unproductive or unsafe. Then, educators work together to eliminate the gray and make sure expectations are as clear and defined as possible.
To begin, educators list all of the student behaviors that occur during this time of day and place them in categories: acceptable, unacceptable, or gray. By the end of the activity, all behaviors should be moved out of the gray box and into either acceptable or unacceptable. By the end of the activity, all educators should have a clear understanding of expectations for students, then be able to relay them concisely and hold kids accountable accordingly. This activity can be used for school-wide systems – recess, hallway behavior, dismissal – or classroom routines – unpack, group work, independent reading.
Take a look at a sample gray box we completed during the workshop! We recommend you give it a try and let us know how it goes. In the meantime, check out these videos of Success Academy educators who completed the gray box, then delivered expectations clearly to kids on the first day of school.
Ready to try this out in your own school community? Stay in touch with us via email at [email protected] and send us photos or updates on how you used the gray box to create your own clear classroom routines!