Standard Lesson

Building a Learning Community: Crafting Rules for the Classroom

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 45-minute sessions
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Empower students academically and socially by allowing them to participate in setting up the expectations for classroom behavior throughout the year. Supported by teacher modeling and coaching, students consider what behaviors and manners are necessary for the classroom to function successfully and collect the opinions of other community members on the subject. After collecting data, students summarize and present their findings to the class. The class then compiles a list of the most important behaviors for their learning community. Students also participate in deciding how the classroom rules will be published and how compliance will be monitored.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Learning is fundamentally a social and cultural process in which students make meaning based on previous experience.

  • Students of diverse backgrounds are more comfortable and less confused when the classroom accommodates differences, recognizes strengths, and helps all students work confidently, productively, and successfully.

  • Students gain confidence and work more productively when they know the expectations for learning.


  • Effective teaching includes high levels of pupil engagement (active versus passive involvement), coaching over telling, and stressing higher level thinking skills

  • Effective teacher practices correlate with student literacy gains.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Miss Nelson is Missing by Henry Allard and James Marshall (Houghton Mifflin, 1977)

  • Pippi Goes to School by Astrid Lindgren (Viking Press, 1950)

  • Please, May I Have a Pencil? A Child's Guide to Manners at School (Joshua Morris Publishing for Ideals, 1986)

  • Mind Your Manners by Peggy Parish (Greenwillow Books, 1978)

  • Wall chart or whiteboard

  • Flip chart or overhead projector

  • Bulletin board or other space for posting classroom rules

  • Computers with Internet access and printing capability




1. Using the books and informational Web resources listed in the Resources section, find materials you feel are appropriate for your class to start off a discussion of classroom behavior and manners. (Suggested read-aloud: Miss Nelson is Missing by Henry Allard)

2. Make a copy for display (on a flip chart or overhead transparency) of the Definitions of Keywords. Familiarize yourself with the list of School Manners and Behavior Topics, which you will be referring to when assigning interview topics.

3. Make a copy for each student of the Behavior Interview handout. You may wish to modify the length and format of the handout to fit your needs.

4. Decide whom the students will interview (teachers? other adults? other students?) and get approval from these interview subjects for their participation in the project. Arrange for a convenient location for the interviews, and agree upon a time frame for scheduling the interviews.

5. Set aside a bulletin board area that is blank except for several scattered question marks and the heading "What's Missing From Our Classroom?"

6. Schedule access to computers with Internet access and printing capabilities for Session 5, in which you will be publishing the classroom rules.

7. Bookmark the ReadWriteThink Printing Press and make sure that it functions correctly on your school's computers. Familiarize yourself with the process of publishing a booklet using the Printing Press.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Become aware of the reasons underlying social rules

  • Build classroom community as they work collaboratively to develop a framework for classroom deportment

  • Practice interviewing skills as they gather opinions of community members using a structured questionnaire

  • Engage in consensus building through discussion of priorities and expectations for classroom behavior

  • Become more aware of their own social behavior and that of their classmates

Session 1: Introduction

1. Ask students if they have been wondering why the bulletin board has just question marks on it, or wondering what might be missing from the classroom. Are we planning a unit on punctuation? Will we be writing questions to go with the question marks? After a few such guesses, tell students that something is definitely missing and that they will be helping you find out what that is.

2. Introduce the book Miss Nelson Is Missing and ask whether anyone is familiar with the story. If so, do they remember what was missing from the classroom in the story? Read the story aloud, paying particular attention to the descriptions of the class's behavior when the new teacher was present and how it differed from their usual behavior.

Note: If you prefer, you may begin the discussion with a different read-aloud or other appropriate materials you have chosen from the list of Resources that would help initiate a discussion of classroom behavior.

3. Ask students, "What besides Miss Nelson was missing from this classroom?" Guide the discussion to focus on why the kind of behavior described in the story would not make for a good school year. Ask whether students now know what might be missing from the class bulletin board. Entertain a few suggestions but move on quickly.

4. Display the flip chart or overhead of the Definitions of Keywords. Ask students to give additional examples of each of the words. Point out that rules and customs allow a community to function smoothly, and that classrooms always need some kind of rules. Ask students what rules they think are most important for a classroom community. Have students buddy up and brainstorm ideas about what kind of manners and behaviors are appropriate in a school environment.

5. On a wall chart or whiteboard to be saved for future use, begin listing examples of how students need to behave in school or rules they believe are important for learning. Tell students that ideas can be added throughout the day. You may set aside a time when you will add more ideas suggested by students, or you may allow students to add to the list themselves later in the day or week.

6. When you feel the students' input is adequate, explain that they will be conducting interviews about the behaviors on the list. Before the next session, decide how to organize the brainstormed list and edit it down to about 10 or 12 appropriate behaviors. Assign one of these behaviors to each student or pair of students, indicating the assignment on the Behavior Interview form.

Session 2: Interview techniques and assignments

1. Explain to students that they will be surveying people from the school community about the behaviors on their list from the previous session, to decide why certain rules are needed and which behaviors are most important to learning and being a community.

2. Introduce (or review) the proper way to conduct an interview (a good way to reinforce the need for manners). You may use a section on interviewing in your language arts text, or model the following points for the class in the context of a mock interview:

  • Always arrange in advance a time and place to meet with your interviewee. Be prepared to tell the interviewee why you are doing the research and how long it will take.

  • Review your questions ahead of time so you understand them and can read them fluently. Be on time for the interview. Speak loudly and clearly. Practice in advance to see how much time you will need to do the interview and schedule accordingly.

  • Listen attentively to the answers.

  • Remember to thank the interviewees and ask if they would like to know about the results of your survey later. Be sure to follow up if they request this information.
Note: It may be advisable to have two students work together on each interview, so that one of them can concentrate on recording what is said. If you feel students are not capable of writing the answers, the research can be conducted using the Behavior Interview handout as a written questionnaire, with the interviewee responding in writing.

3. Distribute the Behavior Interview forms with assigned topics. The logistics for conducting the survey will vary depending on your situation. Explain how students are to contact the interviewees and provide guidelines on when and where the interviews should be conducted. Assign a deadline for completion of the interviews.

Session 3: Presenting findings from the interviews

1. Explain that the research gathered needs to be presented to the class so that everyone together can decide which behaviors are most important.

2. Allow students time to go over the opinions gathered in their interviews and ask them to write a brief summary of their findings. Make notes of their results on a blackboard or wall chart as they read their summaries aloud. Alternatively, you may have them record their summaries on a blackboard or wall chart, which you can then read to the class.

3. Allow students time after each summary to comment on the findings from the interview. Ask whether the behavior in question seems important enough to include as a classroom rule.

Session 4: Compiling and displaying the classroom rules

1. Explain to the class that they will be deciding between two alternatives for compiling a list of rules for the classroom:

  • Each interviewer contributes one rule to the list (based on the behavior that was the topic of the interview), or

  • The list is compiled through class discussion, with a vote to determine which rules are most important.
Allow time to discuss the merits of different opinions so that students truly feel they are making the decisions and taking ownership.

2. Guide the class in deciding how many rules should be displayed at a time on the bulletin board, and whether they will stay the same all year or be updated from time to time.

3. Create a list of classroom rules using the agreed upon procedures and display it on the bulletin board. Using suggestions from students, replace the heading "What's Missing from Our Classroom?" with a new heading for the list of classroom rules.

4. Guide the class in deciding on how they will evaluate their success in observing the rules.

5. Introduce the ReadWriteThink Printing Press and explain that students will use this tool in the next session to create a published version of the classroom rules to share with parents.

Session 5: Publishing the classroom rules

1. Demonstrate use of the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to design a booklet, showing how to enter and format text in the templates.

2. Have students work individually or in small groups to design their own manuals for classroom behavior using the Printing Press.

3. Direct students to print and illustrate their booklets, creating two copies for each student (one copy for their portfolios and the other to be shared with parents).

4. Plan to share the booklets at a Family Night or Open House where students would apprise their parents of the work they have done establishing rules for behavior.


  • Collect and display examples of good manners students observe throughout the year. Post notes on the bulletin board detailing these examples (what, who, and when) and illustrate with photos if desired.

  • Have students use the Internet to correspond with e-mail pals about what kind of classroom rules they have. Exchanging e-mail with foreign students would be a good way to compare and contrast classroom expectations in other parts of the world.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe students’ participation in the initial brainstorming session. Make sure all students have a voice and contribute their ideas.

  • Review the completed Behavior Interview sheets. Check to see that all of the information has been filled in and that all students participated in the interview process.

  • Give feedback to students as they present their findings. Note whether students explain their findings clearly to the class and follow the interview outline.

  • Have the class reflect on the list of classroom rules from time to time, continue to post/cite examples of good behaviors observed, and perhaps decide how to celebrate good results.

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