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Creating Classroom Rules with Children

An interview with Dr. Kathryn Castle
Dr. Kathryn Castle explains how engaging children in thinking and talking about rules make them more likely to understand and follow rules, and learn self-regulation. This video was created as part of the Guiding Young Children's Behavior series, an interactive training curriculum that provides current and future early childhood professionals with tools and strategies for guiding preschool children's behavior in positive ways. The curriculum was originally made possible through the generous support of the U.S. Department of Defense for Project Navigate, a project to support the professional development of early childhood professionals in U.S. Navy child care centers.

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  • Transcript for Creating Classroom Rules with Children

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    Kathryn Castle, Expert: Thinking and talking about rules helps children think about why rules are necessary and what would be good rules for all. It helps them to think about regulating their own behavior in relationship to the behavior of other children or what others call self-regulation.

    When children are engaged in thinking and talking about rules, they are actively involved in the democratic process. The emphasis is not on blind obedience, but on understanding why rules are important for all concerned.Children are more likely to understand the value of rules if they are involved in creating them. They’re more likely to follow rules they’ve had a part in creating because they understand their importance. They’re even more likely to remind other children the rules and to help enforce the rules.

    For the beginning of the program or year, teachers can conduct group discussions of why rules are important and brainstorm with children on what would be good classroom rules. Teachers can use good children’s literature, puppets, and other props to read and dramatize helpful and hurtful behaviors. Teachers can then focus on helpful and hurtful behaviors, how they make you feel, and what you should do when they happen.

    It’s important to write children’s ideas for rules as they state them and then review the list with the group, discuss each rule and why each might be important. Now once some classroom rules have been established, and are written down, and posted, then the rules can be referred to when problems occur.

    When rules get broken, teachers can ask the child who has broken a rule to think about what they have done, and what rule they’ve broken. Teachers can take the child by the hand to the posted rules and help the child find the rule in question and then review why that rule is important. Teachers can ask the child about what they might do next time.

    It’s a long term process that can’t be accomplished in just one group meeting. Rule discussions are ongoing throughout the duration of the early childhood program. But in the long term, children who are engaged in such discussions will advance in their thinking about what it means to be a good citizen, and what it means to be respectful towards others.


    ©2007 Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.
    May be reprinted for educational purposes.

  • Author: Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith
    Production Consultant: Dr. Denise Matthews
    Video Production: RISE Learning Solutions, Jeffery Arias, Denise Matthews
    Student Production Assistant: Kerin Jaros-Dressler
    Content Expert: Dr. Kathryn Castle