Investigative Question

What are classroom and school rules? How were they developed? Who is responsible for enforcing the rules?

Students learn about the values of fair play and good sportsmanship. They learn to respect the rights and opinions of others and build on their understanding of respect for rules by which all must live. Students may discuss the class rules and understand how they were developed. They may also consider the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for enforcing the rules?
  • What are the consequences if these rules are broken?

Having students solve the social problems and dilemmas that naturally arise in the classroom is a sound strategy. For example, they may discuss how to share scarce supplies, how to treat those who bully students perceived as different, or how best to proceed on a group project when a dilemma arises. In using this approach, students will learn that problems are a normal and recurring feature of social life and that the capacity to examine and solve problems lies within.

Teachers may also introduce value-laden problems for discussion through reading stories and fairy tales that pose dilemmas appropriate for young students, such as Paul Galdone’s The Monkey and the Crocodile, Lenny Hort’s The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, and Francisco Jiménez’s La Mariposa. Through listening to these stories and the discussions and writing activities that follow, students gain deeper understandings of individual rights and responsibilities as well as social behavior. Throughout these lessons the teacher’s purpose is to help students develop civic values that are important in school and in a democratic society. Students may be given jobs in the classroom. Practicing democratic processes in the classroom helps students learn content and develop social responsibility.

Teachers may illustrate a direct democracy and a representative democracy by demonstrating the concepts in the classroom setting. To learn about a direct democracy, all students can vote on classroom decisions such as which game will be played on a rainy day or which type of math manipulative will be used to build patterns. The class may vote by using different methods (for example, raising hands or casting secret ballots) and then discuss and reflect upon the process and the outcome. Was it important to have everyone vote? The teacher should ensure that students understand that everyone can influence the decision. Allowing students to select classroom leaders or table leaders who will then make classroom decisions is a way to explicitly model a representative democracy. The advantages and disadvantages of these two models can then be discussed with the students to help them develop a beginning understanding of citizenship and government.

The beginning of the year in a first-grade classroom is spent establishing routines and reviewing classroom and school rules. It is important for students to understand the reason for rules (guidelines that apply evenly to students to keep them safe, and in a positive, fair learning environment), who enforces the rules at school, and what consequences there are for students who choose not to follow the rules. In a school setting, there are different rules for the classroom, playground, library, and lunchroom. Teachers may want to read one of the titles mentioned in the framework excerpt as an entry point for discussing school and classroom rules. Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller is a book about manners that could also be shared to show students how one should behave in different situations. This first-grade inquiry set provides images from the past to help students address the concept and practice of school rules. These questions guide the inquiry set and the activities that help students make connections between themselves and their classrooms today and in the past: What are class and school rules? How were they developed? Who is responsible for enforcing the rules? Teachers can guide students through a literal and an abstract discussion of each source. Frames and questions are provided for students to note the people, actions, and rules taking place in the images. Students are encouraged to make observations about how and why rules exist. Next, students connect the photographs of long ago and compare them to their classrooms today. With guidance from their teacher, students should discuss why rules are needed in their classroom and at school, who enforces the rules, and the consequences for students who do not follow the rules. Comments from the discussion can be recorded on a classroom chart.
Because this inquiry set takes place early in the year, it is helpful for teachers to facilitate a structured process for primary source analysis with students. Depending on the academic abilities of students, teachers may model every form of literacy —reading the instructions, writing responses on chart paper, providing speaking frames, and orally acknowledging what was heard. The Teacher Handout provides guided collaborative conversation prompts that address these questions:
  • What are class and school rules? How were they developed?
  • Who is responsible for enforcing the rules?
The teacher supports students’ analysis of the inquiry set through text-dependent questions that walk students through (1) first making visual observations; (2) then speculating about the possible interpretations and meanings of what is pictured, which includes asking questions; and finally (3) drawing connections between the photographs and their classroom and school rules. Directions:
  1. Start by asking students if they know what rules are and together as a class define rules and discuss why they are important. Some reasons for rules can include a safe and fair learning environment.
  2. Next introduce the inquiry questions for the day and begin analyzing the primary sources.
The Teacher Handout provides structured academic conversation prompts that are particular to each image and will support students’ analysis of the primary sources. These questions can be posed orally to the whole class or to small groups. The teacher may record responses on chart paper or the board. Once students have had a chance to analyze rules from the past, they may then suggest rules for their class. Some sample ideas that students may suggest for class and school include: We raise our hand to speak. We are kind to our teacher and fellow students. We wait to take our turn. We work hard. We ask permission to use the restroom. We are responsible. Allow students time to discuss the suggested rules. Ask students to make connections between the suggested rule and rules that they observed from the images in the past. Then ask students, as a class, if any suggestions should be eliminated or combined before voting begins. The teacher then organizes a class vote, being sure to clarify the way that the vote will be conducted (by hand, by secret ballot, etc.). Introducing voting terminology — including democracy (everyone gets a vote), representation (everyone’s wish is recorded), and simple majority (the rule with the most votes wins) — may be a helpful way to layer in civic-minded practices. The class vote can then be reinforced by having students write out the new class rule. For example: Guided Sentence Frame Our classroom rule is _____________________________________________________. This rule is important to Room____ because _____________________________________________________. If we don’t follow the rule, we might _____________________________________________________ . *See attached teacher handout for literacy support.   Handouts
  • California Revealed. California Revealed has created Curated Themes to mirror and supplement the existing Teaching California Inquiry Sets. California Revealed partners with hundreds of libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and other nonprofit organizations across California to provide free digital preservation and online access services for primary source materials documenting the state's histories, arts, and cultures. The resulting collection spans diverse formats, regions, time periods, and cultural perspectives. We hope these Curated Themes will prove valuable to K-12 teachers looking to go deeper with Teaching California's classroom-ready Inquiry Sets and more generally to California educators interested in teaching with primary sources.
  • The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress’ Primary Source Analysis Tool supports an inquiry model of instruction by asking students to first observe, then reflect, then question. Their customizable tool includes specific prompts for student interrogation of books and other printed materials, maps, oral recordings, photographs and paintings, and many other types of primary sources.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). NARA has developed a vast collection of document analysis worksheets, ready for classroom use. Their website offers teachers a wide collection of customizable tools – appropriate for working with photographs, maps, written documents, and more. NARA has also customized their tools to meet the needs of young learners, and intermediate or secondary students.