Teaching Responsibility in the Classroom

teaching responsibility

Responsibility comes in many shapes and forms! As adults, we are responsible for showing up to work, paying our bills, managing our time, maintaining our homes, etc. Children have responsibilities of their own- making sure their room is cleaned, paying attention in class, maintaining organization of their personal items, etc. Teaching responsibility in the classroom is important so that students become adults who demonstrate responsibility. As the educator, it's your responsibility, and you can do it!

What is “Responsibility”? 

Before you begin teaching responsibility in your classroom, you need to have a really clear understanding of the term.

Responsibility is essentially the opportunity to act independently or on one’s own accord and to be accountable for one’s own actions. Teaching the skill of responsibility also comes with teaching additional, corresponding skills like self-motivation, student empowerment, and accountability. 

teacher helping

HOW to Teach Responsibility

Let’s face it- teaching about responsibility can seem elusive!

BUT, using real world examples and scenarios can help guide instruction and create real learning opportunities for your students. Modeling ways you demonstrate responsibility and putting language to the situation is a GREAT way to get started!

Highlight scenarios in the classroom like these:

  • Keeping track of how much time is left before the assignments is due = being responsible for our time and our assigned tasks.
  • Coming to school with your backpack and supplies = being responsible for the items needed to have a successful school day. 
  • Treating others with kindness = being responsible for the things we say and the way we say it. 

The more you notice responsible behaviors and assign the language to them, the more clear the concept will become to your students!  

Tried and True Classroom Lessons about Responsibility

Guided Discussions

Begin a guided discussion by posing a question to students:

  • what does it mean to be responsible?
  • what are some things that you are responsible for in your life right now?

Create a chart or a diagram to include ideas for school and home and/or both! 

Character Education Lessons

Try these digital and interactive character education lessons from my Character Education Series about Responsibility.  This curriculum gives you plenty of options for activities as well as posters and writing prompts to help promote student understanding.  


Digital Resources

You can also use these Responsibility Boom Cards for a fun and engaging lesson! Use as a mini-lesson in instruction or as additional practice. 

Use Books and Videos

Choose a read-aloud or video from the list below to help guide discussions and deeper thought!



Teaching responsibility in the classroom is made simple with these short and to-the-point videos. The first two videos are for the littles and the last one is for older kiddos.


Being Responsible | Mandy Manners- a kid-friendly song with a catchy tune about what responsibility is as well as age-appropriate examples of ways to be responsible.


Sesame Street: Bruno Mars: Don’t Give Up- some of Sesame Street’s famous characters like Elmo & Cookie Monster join Bruno Mars in singing about responsibility and not giving up OR create your own classroom responsibility video with your students demonstrating examples of their responsibilities! 

For the older kiddos: Will Smith discusses the difference between fault and responsibility. It's a powerful and motivational video, about how your happiness is your responsibility.


Read-Alouds to Teach Responsibility

Read alouds are a wonderful way to incorporate teaching responsibility in the classroom. Check out these books that are sure to become favorites in your classroom:

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its not my fault
But it’s Not My Fault by Julia Cook

One of the biggest lessons in life is learning to take responsibility for yourself.  Noodle blames others for everything that happens or goes wrong.  But he has to learn that he’s responsible for himself and his actions!  This book is perfect for teaching young students the skill of responsibility. 

peace week in miss foxs class
Peace Week in Miss Fox’s Class by Eileen Spinelli

Miss Fox introduces Peace week when she’s had enough of the quarreling in her classroom.  The children contribute to the rules - no hitting, help others, etc. and then get a chance to practice throughout the week.  What they find is how easy it comes to be kind to one another. This book is wonderful at teaching students to take responsibility for their actions, and specifically, if someone is being mean to them, that they don’t need to respond.  Their response is their responsibility - talk about a great lesson for us all to take in!

ill do it
“I’ll Do it!” Taking Responsibility by Brian Moses and Mike Gordan

Teach students not only ways to be helpful and responsible at school, but also ways they can take on more responsibilities at home, like doing chores and helping their grown-up(s) in this sweet children’s book!

Someday by Eileen Spinelli

A well-written depiction of various responsibilities one might have today versus in the future.  This book does a great job of explaining what additional responsibilities we might have as we get older!

I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer

Little Critter is having an extra forgetful day! From his lunchbox to his water, this tale teaches students to become more responsible for their things. 

More Ways to Teach Responsibility

There are truly SO many ways to teach responsibility in the classroom!

Classroom Job Board

Create a classroom job board. Jobs can be simple and small like erasing the board at the end of the day, stacking chairs in the classroom, being the line leader or door holder, sharpening pencils each week- the list can be endless! 

Base the jobs on the level and ability of your students and empower them to take on additional responsibilities as they want/are able! You could even have a bag of “job options” where students can choose additional jobs as they demonstrate responsibility in the classroom. 

One year, I even created a small group “monitor” for a young friend who demonstrated a need for lots of attention during those times. We put her skills to use and voila!- she became a leader and a helper during small groups! 


Use role-playing cards or scenario cards for additional guided practice. These can include a range of real-world examples of demonstrating responsibility both in the classroom and at home!

Group Assignments

Utilize any kind of group activity to demonstrate divvying responsibilities.

For example: One student is responsible for writing while another is responsible for the presentation.

Create Coupons

If you work with younger students, consider having them create coupons for family members to help around the house.

Examples include:

  • taking out the trash
  • helping with laundry
  • sweeping the kitchen

Students decorate their coupons and take them home for family members to redeem. When they return, encouraged students share their experiences (what they did, how it made them feel, how their family member felt, etc.) as they’d like. 

This is a great opportunity to practice other important skills like speaking in front of others and listening. 

Teaching responsibility in the classroom can be fun, engaging, and individualized for your students! If you are looking for easy-to-implement, print and go resource to teach kids responsibility, check out this SEL Curriculum: Responsible Decision Making. The biggest take-away for students will be owning their responsibilities- over their bodies, over their things, over their words, and over their actions... and those are some BIG life lessons that we should all be reminded of from time to time!

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