When you have an elementary classroom with 20+ students, you have definitely wished they could be more responsible from time to time. The best way to teach a skill like responsibility is to embed it in your normal classroom routines and reinforce it with simple activities.
What is Responsibility?
Responsibility is doing what you say you will, making good choices, and owning your actions. We know that helping students be more responsible can help them in the classroom and in the rest of their lives. Let's explore ways you can make that a part of your classroom culture.
1. Quick Purposeful Lessons
The rest of the activities on this list are all things you can weave into your typical classroom routines. But it's essential to give students a direct intro to responsibility. Consider some brief lessons that focus on the most important points.
My Daily SEL worksheets break up responsibility across 5 days and follow the same format each day
- Key points on responsibility
- Discussion question
- Quick student activity
Each day students get to explore the topic. When this is complemented with classroom activities, it can really make a skill like responsibility click.
2. Use Books
Books are always a great way to help students understand a topic through examples and characters. If you are in grades K-3, the six books below are perfect for responsibility activities.
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Pigsty by Mark Teague
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick
David Gets In Trouble by David Shannon
Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
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3. Set Goals
As a class create a list of ways students can be responsible in their classroom. Students can choose one and set a goal for the week. At the end of the week, have students reflect on how they were responsible and choose a new way to be responsible for the next week.
3. Classroom Jobs
This is tried and true, but important. Each student should have a job in the classroom. Something they are responsible for and can do successfully on their own. Create a job board and change jobs regularly.
4. Plan Events
Put students in charge of classroom events, like writing breakfasts or back to school night. This lets them take ownership and pride over the event.
In one of my previous schools, a different grade was responsible for planning the monthly community meeting each month. Students decided the schedule, contacted speakers, and wrote skits.
5. Problem Solving Scenarios
In your morning meeting or during a transition time, give students a problem solving scenario related to responsibility. For example, you forgot your homework. It's the second time this week. What do you do?. Students can answer orally or you can use a journal.
6. Connect Choices with Consequences
When you create your classroom rules at the beginning of the year, have students discuss how they are responsible for following those rules. They can then brainstorm possible rewards and consequences, if that fits your classroom culture.
Through direct lessons or in a simple classroom discussion, discuss how our choices can have positive and negative impacts. Being responsible is taking ownership of our choices. Check out this Daily SEL lesson if you are looking for a simple, direct activity.
7. Give Them Choice & Voice
Give students opportunities to choose how to do something and a say in classroom community. They will
- gain a better understanding of themselves as learners,
- struggle and plan in a controlled setting,
- and stay engaged with their work.
This can be things like choosing where they sit or using homework choice boards.
Read this post on SEL teaching practices: Bringing Responsibility & Choice Into the Classroom.
8. Show Them How To Take Responsibility
Taking responsibility when things don't go right is hard for everyone. Show students that it's as easy as 1-2-3.
- Owning your mistake
- Repairing damage
Remind them that everyone makes mistakes. We have all hurt someone unintentionally and maybe intentionally. We can acknowledge that we were wrong.
Apologizing is more than just saying sorry. You can use a simple writing prompt to help students craft an apology.
Last, emphasize to students that we can try to repair any damage that we caused. They can make a plan for how they will try to fix their mistake.
You can build a responsible classroom culture with direct teaching and meaningful activities that fit into your day. How do you teach responsibility? Share in the comments.
Looking for lessons on responsibility? Check out the ones below.