Creating a Classroom Constitution
Students create a Classroom Constitution for the year after brainstorming the rules they'll need to maintain order and fairness in the classroom.
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will understand the importance of having rules to maintain order at home, at school, in their community, and in their country.
- Create a "working" Classroom Constitution that governs the classroom and supports school rules, policies, and procedures
- Develop a maximum of six positively stated rules or Classroom Standards
- Help edit and revise the final draft of the Classroom Constitution
- Chart paper
- Markers for recording student responses
- Copy of the U.S. Constitution
- Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz
- Lined paper for each student to copy the Classroom Constitution
- Student pencils
- Examples of Classroom Standards (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Prepare how you would like to divide the class into groups of 2–4 students.
- Prepare a poster from poster board entitled "Our Classroom Constitution."
Step 1: Anticipatory Set: Divide class into two teams. Give Team A a simple math problem (grade level appropriate). When they answer it correctly, give Team A 30 points. Give Team B a math problem and 100 points when they answer it correctly. The object of the game is to score the team differently and unfairly. Students should quickly understand that the game is unfair. At the end of the game, allow students to discuss their reactions and feelings.
Step 2: Discuss the importance of rules. Ask the students the following questions:
- When do we use rules?
- Why do we need rules — at home, at school, in our community, in our country?
- What would happen if we did not follow the rules — at home, at school, in our community, in our country?
- Who enforces rules — at home, at school, in our community, in our country?
Step 3: Guide the discussion to understanding the purpose of the U.S. Constitution. Summarize the "rules" listed in the Bill of Rights.
Step 4: Review the importance of having rules and the Constitution. Introduce the book Shh! We're Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz and share that it will help them understand how and why the U.S. Constitution was written. Write the following heading on the board or on chart paper: "What kinds of rules do we need in our classroom to maintain order and fairness?" Review, if needed, the meaning of the words "order" and "fairness." Refer to the brief math game that was played the previous day. Ask them to think about this question while you are reading the book to them.
Step 5: After the read aloud, brainstorm with the class what their thoughts were about rules they need in their classroom this school year to maintain order and fairness. Write their responses underneath the heading on the board or chart paper. Then place students in groups of 2–4. Instruct them to choose 3 rules from the list they brainstormed and generate 3 Classroom Standards. Each standard should be stated in the positive. For example, if one of their rules was "Don't yell in the classroom," then a positively stated Classroom Standard would be: "We use our inside voices in the classroom." See the Examples of Classroom Standards (PDF) for more suggestions.
Step 6: Upon completion, have each group share their positively stated Standards with the class. Record Standards on chart paper. Instruct the students to identify duplicates and help revise the list to total of six standards. At a later time, rewrite the revised Standards onto another sheet of chart paper. Display all chart paper used in the process to help students visualize the concept of editing.
Step 7: Review the process of brainstorming, editing, and revising the Classroom Standards. Discuss the following questions with the class:
- Will the posted Standards help us work together?
- Will the Standards help each student do his/her best work?
- Are the Standards stated in the positive?
- Are the standards realistic?
Remind the students that a Classroom Standard is stated positively for all to follow. Referring to the process of the Constitutional Convention written in Jean Fritz' book, ask the students to decide as class on whether these should be their Classroom Standards for the school year by voting "yea" or "nay."
Step 8: Once all students have agreed upon the Classroom Standards, have each student copy the current list of Standards to be shared at home with their parents or guardians. You might instruct them to perform a final revision for homework.
Step 9: Review students' homework and finalize Six Classroom Standards, utilizing any revisions made during their homework assignment.
Step 10: Write the Six Classroom Standards on a poster now entitled "Our Classroom Constitution." Have all students and teacher read the standards aloud together and then all must sign in agreement.
Supporting All Learners
Students having difficulty with writing are encouraged to select one rule and illustrate how that rule would be implemented.
- Have the students review the Classroom Constitution daily during the first few weeks of school and every Monday thereafter to continually reinforce expected student behavior.
- Language Arts: Have students write a journal entry about what it was like to write their own Classroom Constitution.
- Make a copy of the Classroom Constitution to send home to parents.
- Students may continue Step 7 at home for homework.
- Ask students to bring in a list of Standards from home.
Revise six Classroom Standards for homework.
- Did the students respect the dignity of all team members?
- Were all students actively engaged in the lesson?
- Did the students demonstrate an understanding of the importance of rules?
- Did the students differentiate between positively and negatively stated Standards?
- Are the students respecting the Classroom Constitution?
- Were students able to complete the process of editing and revising the list of Classroom Standards?