We were teaching our character education lesson for the day and read the story, “What if Everyone did that?” by Ellen Javernick. Afterwards, we made a list of why we shouldn’t do each of the scenarios. The only reason they could up with was that they would get in trouble.
This made me dive deeper into the question at hand. The first thought that came to mind was, “What about those students who don’t care if they get in trouble?” The second thought was, “What about once they realize they don’t always get caught?”
This is where I went on a bit of a tangent, that became an experiment. What rule could I tell them that they didn’t have to follow for the day? My answer, putting their things away. It wouldn’t ruin anything or hurt anyone and it had a dramatic result, just what I needed.
The instructions for the day was, “You do not have to put your things away today.”
Here is a list of some of what I did:
- I cleaned off my desk by throwing anything that needed to be put away on the ground. When the students asked me what I was doing I replied, “If you can do it why can’t I?”
- The students went crazy with the cut & paste page for the day. They cut it up into little pieces sprinkling it around the floor. (This was one of those moments where I held my tongue.)
- Every lesson we did we put nothing away, because of this they had extra time to work and they loved this.
- As the floor got dirtier I would prompt with some of the following, “Be careful where you walk.” “Do you think it is safe to step on that?” “Would you want someone stepping on your work?”
- Once it got really bad they started to blame it on me because, “I told them to do it,” when adults asked what was going on. We stopped and had a conversation about how I said you didn’t HAVE to, I didn’t make anyone, and that we chose not to. That WE made the mess. (Another great sub lesson, you can’t blame it on others.)
At the end of day 1 we filled out our writing prompt, my classroom at the end of the day. Students wrote about how they felt and what we were doing. Now that we are all clean we are going to do another writing prompt, talking about how we felt walking in this morning. Then next week we will bring up the prompt, “What if everyone did that?” and have them visual another rule and what would happen.
You can get the writing prompts here.
This comment is what triggered day 2! “It’s fine it will get cleaned up.” When I asked who would clean it my friend gave me a look like I don’t know. Hence, we also learned there is no magical cleaning fairy (sub lesson #2).
As the days went on students found it was hard to find what they wanted, it was harder to follow our other classroom rules, it started to smell stale, and we got a lot of adults stopping by and asking what was going on. Classrooms coming to walk through so they could discuss what was going on. I would simply reply, “What if everyone did that?”
By the end of the second day we had all the bean bags conveniently placed where we sat on the carpet. They knew what they were doing when they left them there. While we made our pros and cons list I was sure to really enforce our rug rules, which in turn cut back of the students loving it. I only had 2 friends say they liked it messy better. Although, they gave plenty for the cons side of the list. We ended up with 10 cons and 2 pros.
Then students were instructed to clean and put everything back where it was. This morning there are a lot of comments on how it feels so much better with it clean.