Creating Classroom Rules, part 2 - Defining the Rules

It's time to talk about how to make those rules you've created with your students really come to life.
If you missed be beginning post on creating rules in the classroom, you can jump to it {HERE}. Today I'll be sharing part 2 of my rules series - how I help my students get a clearer understanding of what our rules mean.

In our school we do a sort of modified PBIS thing. (Which means, we are not officially a PBIS school, but we use some of the ideas!) Our school mascot is a husky, so our principal created an acronym that says our students: Have responsibility, Use honesty, Show respect for others, and Keep safe In Every Setting. So we focus on being responsible, respectful, safe and honest.  These rules are already established at the beginning of the year, and my incoming students already know them by heart.  It is my job to help them understand what the rules look like - not just in the classroom, but in all areas of the building. I do this over the course of the first few weeks of school.

First, I start by talking with my kiddos about what our rules are, why we have them and what they think each rules means. We keep track of our ideas on a brainstorming sheet for each rule. We also brainstorm what the rules look like in different places in the building - classroom, playground, cafeteria, bathroom, hallway...
I project these onto my SmartBoard and we fill them up with ideas! (Remember, I do this over a period of time, so we don't do every rule and every place at once! It depends what I see we need to work on.)

I find that while students are usually good at TELLING me the rules, they often have a difficult time EXPLAINING the rules. So we work with two guiding questions: "What does this rule LOOK like?" and "What does this rule SOUND like?" I often have my students work in pairs to come up with these ideas. If someone walked into the room/hall/cafeteria, etc.. How would they know everyone was following the rules? What would they be saying? What would they be doing?

I find the "looks like/sounds like" idea to give more structure, but I have also had partners just come up with a list of 3 ways we can show that specific rule. Sometimes we all use the same recording sheet and sometimes we mix it up.

We also take time to think about how the rules will look in different settings. Being safe in the classroom will look different from being safe on the playground.

These sheets don't stand on their own! We do a LOT of modeling and practicing, too! Each morning at morning meeting we have friends demonstrate the correct (and sometimes, the NOT correct!) way to show a rule in a certain setting. We also go to the different places and practice, too.

Now that we've described the rules and know what they look like and sound like, it's time to really think about them in different ways. I'm a big fan of using movement in the classroom to teach anything, so we often play a game of Four Corners to practice the rules. I make a sign for each of our 4 rules and hang them near the four corners of our classroom.  Each student (or pair of students) gets a card with an action on it. It is their job to move to the corner/rule that best describes their card. My kiddos love this game! Once everyone is in a corner, I call on a couple students to share why they made their choice. Then we mix up the cards and play again.

I also created an activity for students to sort behaviors that "rock" the rules or behaviors that "wreck" the rules. I have a ROCK and WRECK heading and actions that are both good and not so good choices.  Sometime I do this in a small group and have students sort the cards. Other times we do it altogether and have one student choose a card and act out that behavior. (I usually give them a clue of where the behavior is taking place so it's a little easier to guess!) Then the rest of the group decides if it ROCKS or WRECKS the rules. (Insert sound effects and hand motions here and you have a great interactive activity!) You can do this with a whiteboard for each header and student-generated ideas for each behavior, as well.

And finally, I also want my students to think about situations they might be in when they have to think about making the right choice. It's easy to SAY what you're going to do, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words! I created a set of discussion cards that my students can talk about in small groups. One person chooses a card and reads the situation and we discuss the best way to respond and why. This is a great way to start working on speaking and listening skills, too - as well as how to have a discussion with others. Some students need more structure, so I also have the same cards with choices of what to do. The group talks about each option, decides how it will affect the person and others, and chooses the behavior that ROCKS the rules!

Whew! After all that, we are definitely capable of ROCKING the rules! My kiddos know what the rules are, they know what each rule sounds like and looks like in different settings and they have modeled and discussed how to follow the rules.  I usually don't use all these sheets or activities at the beginning of the year. Instead, I pick and choose what it seems my group needs to work on at different points during the year. It is even more important to go back and review the rules as it is to create and define them!

Looking to use some of these ideas in your own classroom? I put the brainstorming sheets for each setting into a file you can download as a freebie! Just click on the image below.
And if you're interested in seeing the whole resource, you can check out my "Rock the Rules" {HERE}.

If you missed any of my other posts on creating classroom rules, here they are:

Now... what would a discussion and activities about the rules be without some read alouds to inspire some thinking? The last post in this series shares some fantastic books to use when you are working with classroom rules.
Creating Classroom Rules: PART 3 Rule Read-alouds

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