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Lesson Plan

Student Contracting

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Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time Two to three 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Laurie A. Henry, Ph.D.

Lexington, Kentucky


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Select various learning tasks

  • Develop an appropriate learning contract

  • Negotiate a contract with the teacher

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Instruction and Activities

Whole-group instruction

1. Show students the interactive Student Contract on the overhead. Explain the various sections of the contract, including the nonnegotiable items, the negotiable items, and the timeline.

a. Nonnegotiable items. As shown on the contract, the "SSR Extension Activity" is included as a nonnegotiable item. Students have the option of selecting which activity to complete; however, the assessment criteria for the activities are already established. Students can refer to the SSR Extension Activities for a detailed list of nonnegotiable items, along with the stipulated criteria. As part of this section, students also complete a Reading Log. Briefly show students the Reading Log and explain that they should complete an entry every time they read from their SSR book.

b. Negotiable items. In this section of the contract, students choose activities from the Literature Response Activities and negotiate the assessment criteria. This exercise gives students the opportunity to select activities that interest them and decide what form the activities will take and how detailed or thorough they will be. Depending on the student's ability, this exercise also gives you a good opportunity to differentiate instruction.

Note: Duplication of selected nonnegotiable and negotiable activities should not be allowed. However, since many students may have a difficult time choosing just one SSR Extension Activity, having some of the same activities on both lists will aid students with their selections.

c. Timeline. In this section, students negotiate their own due date for the completion of the contract. Discuss appropriate timelines with students. (Contracts are usually completed within one month.)

2. Next, share the Literature Response Activities and the SSR Extension Activities, giving a brief description of each item. If the class is already familiar with the learning contract process, you may wish to let them develop and pursue their own original ideas for contract and extension activities, with your oversight and approval.

3. To end this session, offer a Question & Answer discussion to clarify the various elements of the contract.

Independent work

Once students have made their preliminary activity selections, have them go to the computer lab and access the interactive Student Contract. Each student should work independently on the development of his or her learning contract. Upon completion of the online contract form, each student should print out a copy and sign up for a time to conference with you.


Meet with each student to negotiate and finalize the learning contract. During the conference, discuss the student's selection of activities, the stipulated or student-suggested assessment criteria, the student's rationale for selecting the activities, and an appropriate timeline for completion of the contract. Make sure that the student understands the tasks involved in their chosen activities, and that he or she is comfortable with the timeline and the level of difficulty. Once a final decision has been reached, both you and the student sign off on the contract form.


As soon as a contract has been finalized, encourage students to bring the contract home and get a parent or guardian's signature. This is a great way to keep the lines of communication open between school and home. Parents like to remain informed of what is happening in the classroom; however, students are not always forthcoming with this information.

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  • Student contracts can be developed for small groups of students if they are reading the same text. This fits in nicely with Literature Circles.

  • Learning contracts can be used in any subject area.

  • Contracts can be developed for long-term research projects.

  • Interdisciplinary learning contracts are useful tools to integrate multiple subject areas.

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  • Observation of student responses during contract development

  • Negotiation of an appropriate learning contract

  • Evaluation of completed contract items

  • Completion of a journal reflection about the contract process. Sample guiding questions include:
  • What was positive or negative about the contract?

  • Where could improvements be made in the future?

  • What area did you negotiate well?

  • What would you do differently in the future?


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