Teaching respect in the classroom is a critical element of classroom management. Respect is characterized by a feeling of sincere admiration for someone or something brought about by qualities they possess, their abilities, or their achievements. Simply put, respect is the regard with which we hold other people, and it’s demonstrated through our responses to others, through our intentions and thoughts for other people.
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What does teaching Respect look like?
Respect can be demonstrated in various ways, and we can teach students what respect looks like through a range of concrete examples and social situations. Showing respect towards someone else can look different from person to person, depending on a range of factors. In that same regard, the potential for someone to feel disrespected may differ from person to person, dependent on their unique perspective. In the school setting, we can teach general ways to demonstrate respect through teaching the following skills with the understanding that it’s a continual learning process:
- Listening when a peer or adult is speaking
- Patiently waiting for a turn during an activity or situation (i.e., raising your hand or waiting for a turn in a game)
- Following directions or the rules
- Being honest
- Demonstrating kindness to others
- Helping others in the school community
- Working cooperatively with peers
- Maintaining a safe body around others
- Demonstrating eye contact and appropriate body language while others are speaking
- Honoring other’s boundaries
Of course, this list is not exhaustive as there are numerous ways to teach respect to school-aged students. Still, each of the above examples demonstrates a level of respect for the school setting, the students, and the teachers or school personnel according to many cultural norms. It is also important to note that various cultures have different ways of showing respect, so this list would need to be adjusted to fit your specific class.
Maintaining equitable practices when teaching about respect.
Be sure to examine how each of your students’ cultures may show respect differently from the school, classroom, or teacher’s dominant culture. For example, many cultures believe that maintaining eye contact for too long or with the opposite sex is disrespectful. Also, requiring students to maintain specific body language when listening to others could be exclusive to students with ADHD.
How do I teach skills for respecting others?
Let’s face it – respect is one of those concepts that is hard to define tangibly yet is the foundation to SO many other areas of our lives. Finding concrete, real-world ways to teach these skills is of the utmost importance because it offers students ways to specifically practice the skills and wrap their young brains around such an abstract concept. Here are a few ways I try to teach the overall idea of respect:
- Sorting respectful/disrespectful actions – this could be as a whole group, small group or with a partner. The idea would be to have a range of actions and to sort whether those actions would be considered respectful or disrespectful. This could be a great way to open additional conversations about WHY something might be considered one or the other!
- Creating an anchor chart for ways in which to demonstrate respect at school, at home and in the community. Talk about great ways to show concrete examples in various, real-world situations! Creating an anchor chart with ways in which you can demonstrate respect in a variety of settings is a great way to navigate the conversation of things that may be respectful in one setting, but may be seen as disrespectful in another.
- Use scenario cards to elicit a conversation about respect in various real-life situations. Scenario cards are again a great way to provide real-world examples and opportunities for practice.
- Play games with clear rules that promote turn taking. These can be games that you facilitate within the classroom or your office, games that students can help facilitate for one another or activities they can focus on during recess/free choice times.
- Praise respectful responses! This one is BIG! What demonstrates respect to a student more than praising them for times they are demonstrating respect? This could be something as simple as praising them for loaning a peer materials needed for an assignment or something larger such as their language towards another individual during a time of conflict.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to teach about respect without a lot of extra time and energy, check out my resource bundle with some of the above mentioned activities, plus additional writing activities and a parent letter to extend learning at home!
Using read-alouds to teach the concept of respect
As you know, I LOVE using read alouds as a way to teach new and challenging concepts within the school setting. There are tons of great resources and read aloud books for all ages that relate to the idea of respect. Here are a few of my favorites!
By: Laurie Kellier
Do Unto Otters is an adorable story about having manners and treating others the way you want to be treated!
Mr. Rabbit moves to a new neighborhood only to realize his new neighbors are otters. He doesn’t really know anything about otters and wonders whether or not he will like them. In this playful, fun story, Keller portrays how to be friendly to others by following the golden rule!
By: Julia Cook
So many friends have trouble interrupting, Louis included! He so badly wants to share his thoughts that when he has something to say, he just can’t help erupting (or interrupting someone). His mouth feels like a volcano! Throughout this witty story, Louis learns how to be respectful and wait for his turn to talk.
My Mouth Is A Volcano empathetically tackles what it looks like to interrupt others and gently teaches children to manage their rambunctious thoughts and words. The story provides parents, teachers, and counselors an entertaining approach to teaching children the importance of waiting your turn and respecting others as they speak.
By: Ellen Javernick
What happens if you toss just one soda can or piece of trash out the window? You might think that’s no big deal, right? Now, what if everybody did that? What if everyone spoke during a story, decided they didn’t need a bath or chose not to follow the rules? It would be such a mess!
But if everybody followed the rules, wouldn’t the world become a better place? This book is perfect for showing how each person’s everyday choices, both good and bad, have consequences one way or the other.
Hands down the BEST way to promote respect with students is to not only demonstrate respect and to lead by example, but to also praise students for their efforts to be respectful towards others. We learn best by doing!