Why I Teach Class Values Instead of Rules

I am a firm believer that kids will become whatever you tell them they are. If you tell them they are hard workers, they will work hard. If you tell them they are generous, they will be more generous. This is true for any value. Kids need opportunities and reminders to practice a growth mindset.

Confession: I don't have any rules in my classroom. Not a single one.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out...

My son is 3. Which means that he is the master of taking what you say he can't do, and looking for loopholes to see how far he can push the boundary that's been set. Sound familiar? He is only three and he does this, which means darn tooting the kids in your class will do it too! Let's be real, how many times in school did your teacher tell you that you needed to write enough to fill a paper front and back, so you wrote in your biggest handwriting and skipped two lines to get done faster? (guilty, here!) Or, have you ever told a kid "keep your hands to yourself" to then watch them elbow someone and say, "but you said to keep my hands to myself, not my elbows." (insert eye roll here). Friends, these are normal kid responses. I mean, even as adults, we find loopholes to the rules.

So...I got rid of rules in my class and I replaced them with expectations. Not just any expectations though; I replaced them with character traits, or as I call them "Our Class Values".

Did you know that research has shown time and time again that kids become what they are told they are?! This gives a whole new urgency in how I want to treat and respond to my students. I wanted to use this to my advantage and and that is where the idea of creating our class values started. These values are things that are a part of our community; a part of who we are and who we will strive to be.

I am a firm believer that kids will become whatever you tell them they are. If you tell them they are hard workers, they will work hard. If you tell them they are generous, they will be more generous. This is true for any value. Kids need opportunities and reminders to practice a growth mindset.

When discussing class values with my students, I obviously have values that I want our class to embody, but I also let my kids choose. We create the list together. We sign a class contract. These values become a part of who we are and who we will strive to be each day. The classroom dynamic takes on a whole new level of ownership for students when it is addressed this way.

This is a class that shows kindness.  
This is a class that dares to be bold.
This is a class that laughs daily. 
This is a class that thinks critically. 
This is a class that works hard.
This is a class that learns from our mistakes.
This is a class that gives generously.
This is a class that shares selflessly.
This is a class that respects others.
This is a class that cares deeply.
This is who we are.

I made these banners (above) to serve as visual reminders of who we are. They hang in the front of our classroom where they are always within our view. I deliberately chose to frame the wording as "This is a class that..." because I don't want them to be seen as rules. I don't want it to be seen as "do this, do that". I don't want kids to look for loopholes or exceptions. I want them to be seen as, "This is who we are", because research shows that if you tell a kid they are something enough times, they will actually become it!












GRAB THESE BANNERS BY CLICKING HERE:
There are 15 ready to print banners and an editable template to add your own.
I am a firm believer that kids will become whatever you tell them they are. If you tell them they are hard workers, they will work hard. If you tell them they are generous, they will be more generous. This is true for any value. Kids need opportunities and reminders to practice a growth mindset.

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8 comments

  1. Love this! I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss it, I can't seem to find the link to the actual banners. There are two options to pin it for later.

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    1. Thank you so much! If you click on the picture (outside of the pin it button) it will take you to the link. I'm new to blogging and still trying to figure out the html coding. :) I can't figure out how to get rid of that little "Pin It" circle that pops up!
      Kelly

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  2. This is such a great idea and I fully agree! I only have one rule in my fourth grade classroom which is The Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. The impact of emphasizing values is much longer lasting! This is a great post. www.thebutterflyteacher.com

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    1. Thank you so much for your sweet words, Tanya! I am an avid proponent that character education is equally as valuable as anything kids will learn from a textbook. Thank you for reading a piece of my heart!

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  3. I love this idea and will definitely use it next year. I am curious what you do for kids that are not joining the community for share in its values. What advice or what have you found helpful in your practice?

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    1. Hi there,
      You will always have kids who take longer to buy into expectations, in the same way that you will always have kids who like to break rules. Some kids have huge walls built up that you have to work hard to break through. A few things that make a big difference...If you can get the vast majority of your kids to buy in, and especially the leaders, you will have a whole crew of kids working to help keep the community strong. If you notice a certain group that is not buying in, separate them the best you can and put them in close proximity to kids who are all in. Highlight the little things that they do that are a part of the values you decided. Build them up to realize this is who they are. It is very important to not always be highlighting the negative. You could also give those students unique responsibilities, for example, give them 15 minutes a week to go read with a kindergartener. Give them opportunities to let them know that you notice they are responsible, respectful, caring, etc. I would say that 100% of my classroom "management" style is relational. Take time to build strong relationships with your students. Kids will work a lot harder for a teacher that they respect than a teacher they fear. Each kids is unique and will need something different. Hope that helps a little!
      Kelly

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  4. I love this idea but I’d like to know more. How do you hold your students accountable when they don’t follow the class values or expectations? How does this work with school wide rules? Thank you😀

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  5. Just got these downloaded to hang in my classroom! I LOVE the idea!

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