Behind the scenes in building the Class Constitution…
I don’t like rules. I don’t like having to write, “Don’t do this, and don’t do that.” I like creating something that has a positive spin of “do this, and do that” as well as general enough that can be applied to most classroom situations. This brings in the idea of the Class Constitution. When I first started teaching as a Grade 2 Associate Teacher at the School at Columbia University, my Head Teacher, Patti MacDonald (@pgmacd), taught me about this. The goal was for the students to agree on a few basic ideas:
- Respect yourself
- Respect others
- Respect the environment
- Can’t say, “You can’t play.”
So, how do we get there? I have been starting the year off with talking to the students about why they come to school everyday. I ask them questions like, “Why did you bother waking up this morning?” “Why are you here?” or “Why do you come to school?” This discussion elicits some interesting responses including, “Because my mom woke me up.” but often times students talk about they come to school to learn, see friends, play, and have fun. This is what the poster of that can look like:
Then, I ask the students, what do you need in a classroom so that you can make this successful? I had the students write their ideas on a post-it and stuck it up on a wall:
As a class, we start sorting these into a groups and themes start emerging: things to do with the self, others, and materials / environment. This becomes the basis of the constitution. We add in the “You can’t say you can’t play” and “trying your best” portion and you get a constitution that the students helped to construct.
To make it official, we have a swearing in ceremony where the students promise to uphold what is written in the constitution as long as they are “citizens” of the class!