Creating Class Rules: Learning Citizenship in the Classroom

Every school year, I take time during the first two weeks of school for the development of this year’s classroom rules.

I started our discussions on the first day of school with the question, “Why do we come to school?” I listed all of the students’ answers on the board, and then said, “If these are the reasons we come to school, what do you think our school work will be in this class this year?” Students named various subjects they’ve learned in past years, such as reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and special subjects.

The next day, I then asked students, “Of all these things you think we will do this year, what are you MOST excited about? What do you hope you will get to do in our class this year?” I made a list of our collective “hopes and dreams.” Students were then told to choose two goals to record as their hopes and dreams for this school year.

The next day, I continued the discussion, saying, “If these are our goals, what rules do we need in order to make sure that everyone in the class will be able to reach their goals?” Again, students shared their responses and I recorded them on the board.

The next day, we reviewed the rules and I suggested that all of the rule ideas seem to fit into one of three categories: rules related to others, rules related to self, and rules related to the classroom environment. Together, we went through the list of rules and sorted each into the three categories. Finally, as a group, we tried to figure out an “umbrella” rule that could cover all of the rules in each category. Through one final class discussion, the students came up with the following:

  • Be kind, respectful, and awesome to others.
  • Use the classroom space thoughtfully.
  • Take care of yourself.

Finally, the students created posters with the rules to hang alongside their hopes and dreams – this display will remain on the wall for the entire year.
People support that which they help to create. I’m looking forward to working with the group of students that decided on and committed to these rules, and I feel that we have already started to establish a positive classroom community by going through this process together.

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.