Purpose: Students work together to establish guidelines and expectations for the class.
1. Students recall their expectations for the class.
Point out that so far, students have stated their expectations for the course, and you have stated your expectation of how students will work together cooperatively in groups. Explain that students also have a right to expect certain treatment and behavior from fellow students in this class.
2. Students discuss the purpose of rules.
Ask students to name some school rules and to suggest reasons why these rules are in place. Affirm that rules are designed not just to stop negative behavior, but to protect the rights of those who behave appropriately.
3. Students create a classroom bill of rights.
Have students identify the document that guarantees individual rights in the United States. (Students should mention the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.)
Have students read the Bill of Rights (available at www.archives.gov/founding-docs/bill-of-rights-transcript). Have students review the document and describe its characteristics. Write student responses on the board. Guide students to focus on the document’s language, format, and structure, as well as its content. (Students might respond: the date and place are written at the top of the document, the first sentence tells why Americans need the document, the language is formal.)
Divide students into pairs. Have them create a bill of rights for this class that’s patterned after this important document. Remind them that their bill of rights should protect the right of every class member to be treated with respect, to voice different opinions, to expect confidentiality when sharing personal experiences, and to be considered a valued member of the group. Guide them in coming to an agreement on 10 basic rights. Write them on chart paper.
When the list is complete, have students come forward to sign the document. Post the bill of rights on a bulletin board for the duration of the course. Remind students that this document will be referred to frequently in this class. It provides a statement of mutual understandings about respectful behavior that will be expected from all members of the class.