Rules in School
Teachers using the Responsive Classroom approach teach children that rules are necessary because they help us make school a safe place where everyone can learn. Responsive Classroom teachers assume that children will need practice as they learn to abide by classroom rules, and they understand that children will make mistakes as they learn. Instead of focusing on punishing rule-breakers, they concentrate on helping children gradually assume more and more responsibility for their own behavior.
Mind Jar. The goal is that when they are feeling out of control, they shake the jar, then sit and watch the glitter settle in the water. When the glitter settles, we finish our meditation. This one is a really great technique to use in lieu of timeout.
The rules you made with your students at the beginning of the year will become less effective if you stop talking about them with the children (or if you only talk about them when a rule is broken). This blog post describes how a physical education teachers reviews rules before each new unit.
See how a third grade teacher guided her students through the rule-making process in a straightforward but powerful way. Each photo shows a different step in the process—from hopes and dreams to rule generation to consolidation to the final product. (Photos © Brittany Williams)
When his new neighbors, the otters, move in, Rabbit learns of the guiding principle, "Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you." He asks himself, "How would I like otters to treat me?" He comes up with some ideas, such as "I'd like otters to be considerate" and "I'd like it if we could share things," which Keller illustrates with some hilarious asides and speech bubbles. You could use this book to start a conversation about how children would like others in the class to treat them.
In describing her 1st day of school, Annie the dog describes her teacher's efforts to lead a rather wild class in a discussion of the rules. Some ideas the animals contribute are "Always keep your tools dry" (from a beaver) and "Just say no to catnip" (from a cat). Use this book to launch a discussion about how the rules the class in the book developed did not really help them learn and enjoy school. Then encourage your class to think about what some more positive and helpful rules would be.
Officer Buckle is dedicated to teaching children about safety rules, but his presentations put children to sleep. That changes when he starts taking his dog Gloria along. Behind his back, Gloria acts out what would happen if children didn't follow his rules. Children start paying attention and become fully engaged in his talks! Use this book to launch a discussion of why rules are necessary, or to practice taking a list of many specific rules and putting similar ones into categories.
Funny and engaging illustrations show what happens when a boy imagines possible answers to the question he keeps hearing from adults: "What if everybody did that?" For instance, we see the fat zoo animals that would result if everyone broke the rule about not feeding them. Reading this book could inspire a great class discussion about why rules exist. And you could also use it to start a conversation about rules that would make your class a safe and happy place.
Wisniewski portrays the multitude of rules grown-ups have developed and the reasons they give for those rules as mere pretexts for the real, top-secret story: behind each grown-up rule is an issue of critical importance to our national security. For example: The reason children have to eat their vegetables? Otherwise vegetables might regain world domination! Children will be drawn to the idea that there is an adult conspiracy afoot and to Wisniewski's hilarious explanations.