Designing the classroom culture is an evolutionary experience at the beginning of each year. It is an art, actually! Students of all ages want to know that they belong to the culture and have a stake in the learning experiences. How can we gain that sense of belonging and ownership of our contributions while setting the stage for a successful year?
Cooperative learning strategies work extremely well as we establish the classroom culture through learning about Students’ Rights and Responsibilities! Using cooperative learning lessons, invite students to discover that they have Authority and a special Responsibility. Through the use of their authority and responsibility, students can discover how their character is reflected through Integrity and Respect. Every student wants Freedom and can experience more autonomy as they grow and develop each component of the classroom culture. It takes time, lesson experiences, routine and a consistent structure to cultivate.
Freedom Rights and Responsibilities
Decisions lead to rewards or consequences. These decisions build your track record or character reputation. To build a healthy classroom community, I like to create a lesson experience for Authority, Responsibility, Respect, Integrity, and Freedom. Making a flip book with one flap for each concept, students add a picture with caption to personalize and make the experience real. Deliver the lessons one concept per day, or if the students are older, combine two of them.
Authority: What is authority? At what age do we have authority? Discover the concept of authority through questioning! Did anyone make a decision today? Authority is the power to make decisions. In this first lesson, we talk about how everyone has made at least one decision to begin the day. What to have for breakfast or what to wear, who to say hello to and what choose for lunch…these are all decisions! Likewise, we make decisions on how to respond to questions or situations. We need to take our Authority seriously! Every decision leads to a reward or consequence.
Responsibility: Discover the concept of responsibility through role playing. Students have tough decisions sometimes, especially during free play time. One student can act out a playground role where he/she is hit by a ball. In one ear whisper, “Just hit him back, as hard as you can.” In the other ear whisper, “It was probably an accident; just give the ball back and smile.” What should he decide to do? After class discussion, share that responsibility is the right to make the best decision that leads to a good outcome.
Integrity: Discover the concept of Integrity through questioning! Do decisions only need to be the best when an adult is close by? Only while in school? Only when you are seeking a reward? Unlock the meaning of Integrity with the premise of keeping a good track record of our character. Share experiences when we have shown our integrity!
Respect: Discover the concept of respect for myself leads to respect from others. Use a pipe-cleaner building challenge to construct when each member of a small cooperative team is given 2 pipe-cleaners of the same color. Take turns placing your pipe-cleaner on the construction and speak about what part is being added and how it benefits the whole project. Respect looks and sounds like listening to and considering the ideas of others as these ideas are just as important as your own. Unlock the meaning of respect as a summarizer to the activity.
Freedom: Everyone wants freedom for something! What do you wish you had the freedom to do? How do you gain this freedom? From the discussion, develop the understanding that it is from Authority, Responsibility, Integrity and Respect that we gain freedom to make even more important decisions…which leads to building a greater track record of character.
Some helpful, yet simple, prints can make your lessons into a flip-book to use as an anchor for the year! Enjoy!