Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"You And Your Friends Agreed . . ."

The children in Woodland Park's 3-5's class make their own rules. Yesterday, as I was making last minute preparations for our first day of school, I removed last years list of rules from the wall. Since I've already described how we go about making our rules, I will only go into our process here to mention that the rules that make the list are the ones that are approved by a consensus of the entire community of children.

We add to this list throughout the year. The adult's role is to observe when one of these rules is being violated, point to the list and say, "You and your friends agreed that there would be no hitting (or kicking, or name calling, etc.)." I love how the children then look at the list on the wall, almost as if they are reading it.

I am not exaggerating when I say that in ninety-nine percent of the cases, this is as far as we need to go. In fact, as I sit here writing this, I cannot think of a single instance in which it was necessary for the adults in the room to go beyond pointing out, "You and your friends agreed . . ." A few years back, Henry O. used to play policeman. This entailed patrolling the room and reminding people, "You and your friends agreed . . ." It worked just as well when the reminders came from a kid.

During the summer program, with the ever-changing collection of kids, some of whom without prior experience in our school, we didn't use this rule-making method, although the list remained on the wall. One day, while eating snack, one of the "new kids" talked about breaking one of the "old rules." Charlie B. informed him it was against the rules. The child responded, "What happens when you break the rules?" Charlie paused for a moment, then answered, "We just don't break the rules."

Here are the rules under which our 2009-2010 class operated:

No punching
No real or pretend guns
No kicking
No stomping on fingers
No pinching
No cutting off fingers
No hitting
No dropping blocks on people
No pretending other people are dead
No calling people "Yuck"
No name calling
No throwing water, especially on glasses and especially on people
No ripping special boards, except Max's ("Special boards" refers to the displays of photos children bring into class in honor of their birthdays. Max was okay with having his ripped, although no one took him up on it.)
No hitting toys
No throwing grenades or dynamite
No screaming inside
No standing on sharp things
No knives
No putting knives in people's eyes
No throwing stuff at people
No standing on drums
No skateboards
No ripping birthday throne
No throwing people in water
No throwing paint or glue on people
No standing on tables
No slamming faces
No ripping down the school
No slamming people in the door
No sticking knives in people's noses
No throwing pumpkins at people
No holding ponies up high (Referring to stick ponies)
No bowling inside
Boys and girls allowed
No beating people up
No painting other people
No pushing people off the birthday throne
No grabbing other people's stuff
No yelling into the microphone (We learned about this one the hard way)
No putting nails in people's ears
No wasting food
No banging heads
No throwing things on people
No putting gravel on people's heads
No throwing knives and pens and paint and dirt
No lighting bombs
No getting in the toilet
No getting off the blue rug at circle time
No messing up bows and scarves
No throwing rocks
No throwing pumpkin juice
No putting nails in people's legs
No leaving without a grown-up
No painting people's noses
No putting knives through feet
No slamming eyes in a door
No cutting feet or hands
No cutting ears
No hitting people with bells
No stepping in sticky mud (I tried to warn them against this rule, but they all agreed. I was later told that the mud they were stepping in was "gooey," not "sticky.")
No throwing bells at people
No splashing water in people's eyes

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Ruth Churchill Dower said...

Hi Tom, I was interested in why the children chose the 'no guns' rule themselves? Were they thinking about what the adults would want or are they themselves against the concept of guns (causing pain, violence, etc)?

There is a lot of natural fascination in gun play, perhaps more so in the UK where policemen don't carry them per se (except in airports), and guns are banned from all private homes (except for licensed sports) and so perhaps there is more curiosity about gun play over here?

Very interesting article here by a respected early years educator, Diane Rich, challenging us to incorporate gun play in our early learning: http://www.richlearningopportunities.co.uk/pdf/when%20children%20play%20with%20guns.pdf.

How do we prepare our children ina balanced way for the world around them, and for what they will see in the media every day? Big subject, I know, but love to hear your thoughts on this.

Many thanks, Ruth Churchill Dower (www.earlyarts.co.uk)

Saya said...

Hee hee! I love those rules... especially the ones to do with knives lol!!
We do rule making too, it's interesting how detailed these rules get. I used to have this urge to just put few together and make one rule, but so far, I have been resisting it! :)

Monkey's Mama said...

Wow, there must be a lot of knives in the classroom :)

elizajane said...

A classroom rule list like this could not exist in my classroom :( Our regulatory agency requires rules to be phrased in a positive manner. So we could not have a "no hand grenade" or "no throwing pumpkins at people" rule...it would have to be "use handgrenades in war zones only" and "pumpkins are for eating only". Sigh.

I love reading this blog, and it saddens me at times that a school like this would not be able to open in my area. It would regulated within an inch of its life, and all of the freedom & expression that these children enjoy would be limited beyond recognition.

Lindsey said...

I really enjoyed reading those rules! We don't have anything written down like this, but the kids sometimes make up rule lists randomly between themselves. One of the ones that made be laugh recently was "no farting on purpose, especially when you are sitting on someone's knee". I think one of the weirdest ones from a while back was "no wooden train tracks in the toilet bowl". It's extremely hard for me to keep a straight face whilst saying "That sounds like a very good idea".

Annicles said...

We do this every year - we haven't yet this year, we are getting clost to the right time though! Last year the kids settled on
Gentle hands
Walking feet
Talking voices
Kind words

They thought they could remember them and didn't want anyhing else. It will be interesting to see if the oldest children who were part of that set of rules will try to reproduce them or if the new children will have a big influence!

Play for Life said...

What a great way to start my day!! These are the coolest set of rules ever Tom ... certainly makes our rules look very lame indeed although I must admit without it even being one of our rules we've never had any of our children ... in the twelve years I've been here anyway ... attempt to throw pumpkins or their juice at other people ... Love it! Thank you. You've set me up for a great day!
Donna :) :)

Let the Children Play said...

I want to print these out to remind me why I love children so much :) I notice that while there was a "no lighting bombs" rule but nothing about actually making them - so thats how you got around that one!

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

My favs:

*No throwing pumpkin juice

*No lighting bombs

*No getting into the toilet

Pam said...

Hopefully most of these rules were not made after actually experiencing what may happen without that rule!

Scott said...

Jenny, I had the same thought about the "no lighting bombs" rule.

I can just hearing a group of preschoolers creating this list. Thanks, Tom.

ねーちゃん said...

Hi, it's my first time to post a comment here. I'm a follower of your blog and always enjoy reading! Thank you for sharing your excitements and great ideas.

I'm an English teacher for little children in Japan. I'm always in trouble because everyone is trying to do everything just as one likes. I think it's difficult to make them settled down and listen to me in only 40-50 minutes.

I'll try to make some rules with them too. I hope it'll work!

Centers and Circle Time said...

That is simply priceless! That was like ice cream after a long day:)

Girl Scout suggests the girls come up with their own rules for meetings and it worked the exact same way only theirs weren't as CUTE! I still never thought to do it with my class, probably cause I was "trained" (like Cassie) to use positive rules.

Rock on Teacher Tom!

Teacher Tom said...

@RCD . . . I'm not necessarily opposed to gun play as long as it doesn't scare other people. We're a two year program and it's possible that, years ago, I planted the seed of "no weapons," but at this point it's just one of the rules the kids automatically carry over from year-to-year, like "no hitting" and "no biting." The older children remember it from the year before and proudly offer it up. We often allow clever rationalizations to permit certain forms of gun play, like the time Cash told me he was "shooting love" on people.

@Saya and MM . . . They get on a role. Most of the rules are not from experience, but rather come to us through their worst-case-scenario imaginations!

@cassie and C&CT . . . One year I had a group of kids who, one day, got it into their own heads that they wanted a list of things they could do. After about 2 minutes everyone got bored with it and went back to things we couldn't do!

@Donna and V. Kerr . . . The pumpkin rules were adopted right around Halloween and we had a room full of pumpkins at the time.

@Pam . . . A few of them were proposed based on experience, but most, thankfully, were purely gallows thinking.

@Jenny and Scott . . . Indeed, the bomb making episode got through on a technicality! =)

@Aki . . . Good luck!

jaimeep said...

Hey gang...the TT method of classroom rule making works really well at home too! Give it a try with your own kiddos!

Tom....I'm telling you....where's the book??!!

Teacher Tom said...

Oh, and @ Lindsey . . . Those might be the two greatest rules ever made! =)

Jackie @ Capable Kids Clubhouse said...

I recently implemented some rules at our home for my 2 little boys who fight often. At first it worked well, but now I am going to try the "you and your brother agreed" method... thanks TT!

Barbara Gini said...

This is awesome! Love it! :)

maria said...

Oh my, it's so strict! At my school i totally allow the bombs, the knives in people's feet, and getting in toliets....LOL

kate said...

this is fabulous. I have tried in the past to have only about 3 rules. you know, the "be kind, gentle hands, etc..." but that hasn't seemed to work with the kids in my class this year. I love the idea of writing down the list and holding the kids accountable for creating their own democracy. such a great list, too!

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Love this TT! I am definitely going to try this here at home with my three. As a teacher of slightly older kids (k-2) I tried to do the broad overarching rules (be kind, be fair etc) but those are so vague and up for interpretation sometimes. For the way preschoolers think -- so literally -- it's no wonder this works great!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I am stuck in the same boat as Cassie ( ^way up there^ ). I whole-heartedly agree that this is the best way to go about making rules in the classroom. State Regulations however, disagree. I'm sure they have good reasons though. It's hard for old-school ideologists to surrender the "power" they [thought] they had over children. It has got to be overwhelming to part with such outdated, but beloved, methods of "teaching discipline and structure." You know I can't believe for one second that people who made some of the rules and regulations have ever even met a child.
Well I personally have always avoided "no" rules, because in fact it is depressing to walk by a list of "don't you dare(s)!" and have no clue how they got there, why, and what they could possibly have to do with you? "Pre-made rules for me to follow? I just got here. Why are they explaining these rules to me? Do they think I am a bad kid or something?" Thats just how I imagine "little" me feeling. But really...I love how this idea is actually effective in maintaining a fun, positive, creative, interactive, worry-free environment--free of over the top discipline that is. Having your office/castle accidentally kicked over after all the time it took to make and hasn't even been used yet...well, that is a type of worry that is too often due to an unavoidable accident:(
Even though it would be taken down, and labeled inappropriate-in every center I have taught at-for children to make the rules, it gives teachers like me hope to know that progress is being made somewhere in the wonderful world of education. It is soooo important for caregivers and educators to stand-up for our kids. This student-made list is a perfect example of how capable children are. They can, and want, to practice self-regulation. This is introducing them to things that are real!! like you said, Democracy. No better way to introduce this concept, whether it be your intention or not. We are doing children no good to wait for them to be "ready" before doing, saying, or thinking, anything that might go over their head. Because it is so traumatizing to know there are actually things, concepts, what have you, in the classroom that children may not understand! -goodness gracious- And seeing as how DOE is insisting on everything being skill and drill, only skill-based toys, materials, books, blocks, thoughts, and everything else, are allowed in the classroom.
I have seen and worked with teacher's that swear by this cookie cutter method in one breathe and in the next, ask why they got the kids that don't listen and do what they are told!!! Really?!
These same teacher's whine and complain about their jobs and how they can't wait until the weekend..then vacation..then retirement! Oh man you'd think they won the lottery just thinking about the freedom. :/
That breaks my heart. For the kids, not the teachers, obviously. I LOVE my job and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I LOVE my kids! Not to sound like a hallmark card but they really are precious blessings. The only thing I look forward to more than seeing my kids on Monday mornings after a long weekend, is being able to implement strategies for learning WITH children in memorable and meaningful ways, rather than just teaching AT them.

BTW I really love your blog! I apologize for ranting but this is the first authentic teacher blog I have been to. It is so nice to know there ARE good, caring teachers! And I have learned a lot from you already, so thanks!

spritof said...

What about the DOs, TOM?

It seems to me that everyone is focused on what NOT to do, on the forbidden, instead of on what should be done. I believe it's more important and effective to focus on positive actions rather than on negative (in this case, forbidden) actions.

By the way... terrific posts. These lead me to believe you're doing a wonderful job. Keep it up!