When I wrote my list of a few easy classroom rules in kid language, I mentioned that I review the rules every week in interactive, varied, fun ways until the kids really get it. Some ask, “How do you do that without boring the children — and yourself?” Before I answer that, here’s a few basic suggestions about classroom management:
* Any child will become wiggly during a lecture-style lesson week after week. Make sure your lessons are varied and actively involve the children. Pull out your copy of Teaching, No Greater Call (or download it here) and add a few new teaching ideas to your bag of tricks. I particularly like Chapter 25 on page 89: “Teaching with Variety.”
* Be consistent, using the same rules and rule numbers. You want the children to eventually memorize them, so at some point one child will look at another child tipping back in his chair and say, “Rule #4 is six legs on the floor.” They can’t do this if you mix up the rules and rule numbers. This isn’t to say you can’t adjust based on needs as you go along, but do try to stick with a few consistent rules. Repetition makes children feel safe; kids like knowing the answers.
So here’s how I do it. Remember that reviewing the rules is not the lesson itself. Each of these activities should be VERY brief so you can get into the heart of gospel teaching.
Take 1: Read it. Display the rules poster, read the rules. You can simply do this for a week or two.
Take 2: Which rule is missing? Before class, tape blank paper over one rule. Have the children guess which rule is missing. You can repeat this for a few weeks with a different rule missing each time.
Take 3: Example. Post the poster and ask “Show me someone who is obeying Rule #3.” Review the others as needed. (WARNING: DO NOT ask them to show you someone who is NOT obeying a certain rule — you’ll be sorry!) You can repeat this for a few weeks demonstrating a different rule each time.
Take 4: Pictionary. Instead of posting the poster, draw a picture that goes with one of the rules. Children guess what that picture represents. Then post the poster and review the others as needed. You can repeat this for a few weeks, sketching a different rule each time.
Take 5: Choral reading. While you point to each rule, children repeat the rules together as a class.
Take 6: Guessing game. “OK, children, before we begin, let’s have a guessing game. Which rule has to do with our voices? our chairs? our hands?” Then display the rules poster.
Take 7: Charades. Whisper in a child’s ear or give the child a paper with one of the rules on it. The child acts it out while the others guess. Then post the poster. You can repeat this for a few weeks, acting out a different rule each time.
Take 8: Quiz. “Who remembers what Rule #1 is? How about #2?”
Take 9: Why? “Why do you think this rule is important? How does this rule help us?”
Take 10: Children as teachers. If you have visitors or move-ins, ask the children to be the teachers, instructing the new child on the rules for your class. If you have 5 rules, ask 5 children to stand and explain one rule.
Feel free to mix these up — Pictionary for Rule 3 one week, then tape over Rule 5 the next week. You need not review every rule every week, unless the children need it. You may want to review most frequently the rules the children need most. Not every rule lends itself to each method; for example, it’s hard to act out “Obey the teacher.” Once the children have mastered the rules, feel free to post the poster without comment and go straight into your lesson, reviewing occasionally as needed using one of these methods.
Then use these rules in the moment. When a child is poking a neighbor, you can quietly say, “Rule #3 – hands to yourself.” And remember to praise the behavior you do want when it occurs. Prevention and rewarding the behavior you want are excellent discipline techniques.
Finally, we know that rules are not an end in themselves. Setting appropriate classroom rules and making it fun makes children feel safe and loved. As they learn what’s expected and how to achieve it, you create conditions for them to succeed. A reverent child is more likely to feel the Spirit and more likely to get acquainted with the Lord in Primary. In short, mastering classroom rules is to help lead children to the Master.
This idea appears in “Sunday Lessons and Activities for Kids,” with downloadable rules poster and other handouts here. Read more about how Primary in Zion became a book by clicking on the book cover below.