Constitutional Convention, Second Grade Edition

A critical part of building our class community is establishing rules for how we will work together. Every year brings a new group of people who will work together for seven hours each day for over 180 days. Instead of being greeted with a list of rules mounted on the wall, our second graders are charged with co-creating rules for our community.

Like with any organization, we start with our values. We reflected on our feelings as summer closed and the new year neared. “I didn’t want to wake up.” “I felt so sleepy.” “I just wanted to stay at my grandma’s house.” Many “me too” hand signals filled the room, even from me. Turns out summer vacation is hard to come back from.

“I want this to be a classroom where we do important work and where friends want to come to school,” I shared. “What does that look like?” Friends thought about the work they had done in first grade, and what they might want to accomplish as second graders. Calls were made for fieldwork, adventures, and homework (yes, homework.) Important note: if sewing is a secret talent of yours, we want you to come in–we have some pillows to make!DSCF2311

Friends then thought about what important work they, themselves, would want to do this year. Together, they brainstormed their hopes and dreams for the year. Friends aspire to add without counting on their fingers, to find a chapter book series to read throughout the year, and to write the great second grade novel. They spent two days drafting their hopes and dreams and water coloring paper to mount them on and hang them from in our classroom as a reminder throughout the year.DSCF2310

The next day, we revisited our hopes and dreams asking, “What kind of place does this need to be so every friend can meet her hopes and dreams this year?” And with that, we began to generate a list of rules. This is our fourth year in the new building. Throughout the past four years, we’ve thought about what will happen when our first group of Pre-K friends arrives in second grade. Often, when we generate rules, we make a long lists of don’ts. Don’t hit. Don’t bite. Don’t pinch. Don’t flick. Don’t pluck. Don’t kick. Don’t fight. Don’t punch. We spend time turning those don’ts into dos, asking, “So if we aren’t fighting, what are we doing?” This year was different.DSCF2307

After turning our few what-not-to-dos into what-to-dos we looked at the list. There were a lot of rules. A lot. Ms. Fay typed up the rules and we broke into small groups to figure this out.

“I think some of these go together,” Nathanel offered.

“A lot of them say, ‘Kind,'” Kamari added.

“Let’s put them in piles.” Escarlet began to neatly arrange the rules.DSCF2238DSCF2241DSCF2256

Friends made suggestions about rules that could go together. “I think capping markers goes with ‘be kind’ because it is kind to take care of our materials.” Ronan suggested.

“No,” Kevin countered, “It goes with picking up trash because it’s taking care of our classroom.”

“I agree” hand motions filled the space. And so we continued. Friends made suggestions and reasons. Others argued or agreed.DSCF2248

Finally, we sorted the rules into four groups. “There are still too many!” Justin said.DSCF2264

We grabbed some sentence strips and got to work crafting language that would speak for each group.DSCF2265

Finally, we mounted our rules. Each friend traced her hand and signed off on the rules, claiming his stake in our community this year.DSCF2327Huge thanks to Responsive Classroom’s Teaching Children to Care for inspiring our rule making every year.

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