Rules in my Kindergarten room were few–I hated having to enforce all the stupid ones schools make many times. (1 pack of ketchup at lunch, 1 napkin, etc.–how many of us adults use ONE pack of ketchup on our french fries? I saw things like that as control issues, NOT rules that made sense.)
So I narrowed mine down to three:
1. Be safe. (I told the kids the first day of school that the most important rule for each one was to not get hurt in anything you do here at school and for you to always take care of yourself so that you stay healthy and safe.)
2. Be considerate (I often explained they were not the only child in my classroom and since there were a lot of us, we had to learn in ways that didn’t bother others who were also trying to learn.)
3. Be a thinker (After all, school is a place to learn and thinking is part of learning. The more you think, the smarter you become too.)
Debbie Shelor, a friend who also adapted these rules to her room, explained it this way:
“Everything we say and do in our work and play together can be defined by these simple but powerful guidelines. When there are problems that involve a number of the children or decisions to be made that affect us all, we have a class meeting to work things out together.”
I used them as conversation starters–if a kid was running down the hall, I could ask either “are you being safe?” OR “Could your running be bothering others in classes who are trying to learn?” if a child hit another one, I could ask “Are you being considerate?” Getting a kid to OWN and name their behavior is a critical step to getting them to talk about it and make a plan for changing it. I didn’t accuse them or fuss at them, simply asked if they were following our class rules. Asking questions is a great way–IF THEY ARE THE RIGHT QUESTIONS–to get kids to think–about behavior as well as the world around them.