Rules are everywhere in our lives yet I have found that students spend so much time thinking about the consequences of not following rules and they often don't take the time to think about who created them and why? Soooo for this reason I opened the lesson by giving them a Do Now Rules are Ruling My Life response sheet that asked them to respond to questions that asked why do we need rules, Are the rules the same for everyone? When are they different? and Who decides on the rules? to get them thinking more deeply about just who it is who made the rules we follow in our lives.
When they complete this we share out some responses and I introduce our objective that we are going to analyze why we have rules and their value and purpose in the establishment of our society.
Here's a review of why I added this lesson into the unit and when and why I teach it here
Attached below I have some of the posters we created at the beginning of the year for our classroom community unit. Students in my school are expected to understand the Constitution and the events that surrounded its creation and implementation. To do this I have found that they need to connect their learning to something tangible - What better than our class rules that have governed our class for the past months?
My focus is to build understanding of the importance of rules, who makes them in our current and past governments and why we changed them (Articles of Confederation and Bill of Rights) to make sure they protected all peoples rights.
My purpose with this lesson is to introduce students to the difference between rights and responsibilities so, that they can connect what we create in class to the creation of our government. I start this section with a ball game that has a lack of rules/ too many rules to demonstrate the concept that rules keep the peace, tell us the expectations and help everyone to get along civilly.
I ask students what's the difference between a "right" and a "responsibility" and I take responses. Students are not so sure here about the difference. So I prompt them further and share that rights are things that are right for you to expect or to have such as freedom to spend your money the way that you want to. I then add that responsibilities are things that you should do to make sure where you live is a good place to be and that you are treating others fairly.
I share what we have determined that a right is a freedom that is protected for all citizens to make sure a country is safe and respectful for everyone. A responsibility is what we do because we care about our environment and people and want to make it a great place to live.
I group them into 3-4 students and have each choose a Rights and Responsibilities Prompt Tag out of the bag. I share that they will have 2 minutes to discuss the tag and how it relates to a right we should all have and how we should act responsibly when given that right. I model that we should have the right to share how we feel, but also realize that we should also be careful that our words are not intentionally hurtful to others.
I call student groups to respond and to share their rights and responsibilities created from their tags. They also share if this right is one we have at school, in our homes or all over the world.
I wish I could have insight into all students understanding levels before I even begin planning because it would save me so much time! For this lesson I was lucky to have met with a small group in the morning and we shared the questions about the rights and responsibilities that all citizens should have. It seemed no matter how I worded it and reviewed it they gave me nods and affirmations but were not contributing or getting involved in the lesson learning. Finally I had to ask and realized that due to the fact that they do not work, drive or pay bills - they really had little understanding of the rights that they should expect in life. Their lives revolved around what they parents "rules" were rather than what our society expected from them.
I realized that I needed to make a change quickly and from what I heard from their responses I knew they could make connections to the topic if I made them personal. The last lesson with pulling tags out of a bag was so successful I decided to do it again. This time I typed simple topics ( speaking, money, safety. etc.) on strips of paper and broke them into small groups. After I modeled the first the light bulbs started going off and I could see the majority getting the expectation for the lesson.
Those who struggled still were primarily confused by the vastness of their word. For example, if it was "safety" and what part of it they needed to look at. I just needed to say something like "What right do you have to keep yourself or your family safe?" for them to get their brains moving with it. Once I got them all going their discussions were fantastic and they came up with too many ideas rather than too few.
My purpose with this was to get them to this realization place so that when I introduced and spoke about the struggles the people and founding fathers had with getting their rights and liberties protected in writing - that they made the connection to what rights they were talking about back then.
For the first ten minutes of this part of the lesson I want them to complete a worksheet to assess their levels of understanding regarding the relationship, between rights and responsibilities. I use this Rights and Responsibilities Matching sheet from Scholastic.
Here's a clip to show the way I evaluate their levels of understanding and application with this worksheet
For this section I want to reinforce that rules might need to be adjusted to meet the changing needs of the citizens they protect. This will help students connect as to why we changed the Articles of Confederation and added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. This also means that this unit is best presented after your classroom rules have been established and put in place for awhile.
I share with students the rules poster we created at the beginning of the year. I ask them if they still agree with all the rules (Class rules, quiet rules and work rules) most do. I then share that they will get the opportunity to change one of the rules that they don't like but must give a good persuasive argument as to why it would be a good idea to change it. I ask for some questions or thoughts on this - I have a few comment that they no longer think they should be given "Think Sheets" when their names are on the board, and that we should enforce the quiet classroom atmosphere more strictly during testing but less during work times, etc. You want to prompt a debate so that students can not only get an idea for what to change but also to know that there are no right or wrong choices.
I give them the Change is Good For Everyone worksheet and ask them to partner with a peer to complete their writing. I give them a few minutes to share aloud and then ask them to complete their writing quietly. Not easy for those who wanted more talking times!
Closing we share what rules students feel should be changed. I take this part seriously because it not only helps students to feel involved in their classroom structure, but also gives me a glimpse into what they feel is not going well in our classroom. Always room for improvement!
I add these into our class rules posters and we all sign the new version to signify our agreement with the classroom "constitution" - got to get them familiar with the meaning of the vocabulary.
I share that rules are constantly changing and that in the next lessons we will see how even the leaders of the Continental Congress made mistakes in their developing of the rules for the early colonists. They made changes that eventually created our United States Constitution and the rules we follow today.