Activities and Games

PreK-K: Learning School Rules

6 activities to teach manners and feelings.

  • Grades: PreK–K

Manners: A Storybook Approach David Goes to School
By David Shannon. $16.99
After you’ve shared this book and the giggles have stopped, write an apology letter from David to his teacher. Reinforce by stating which rules David broke (there are several!) and by explaining what he’ll do differently next time.

By Kevin Henkes. $6.99
Read what happens when Chrysanthemum is teased because of her name. Then role-play the problem in the book to show how good manners can resolve just about any conflict.

Library Lion
By Michelle Knudsen. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. $6.99.
Share this tale about a lovable lion that tries his best to follow rules. Then talk about rules that apply to different parts of your school. Make separate lists of rules for the classroom, playground, lunchroom—and the library, of course!

Officer Buckle and Gloria
By Peggy Rathmann. $16.99.
Officer Buckle has a boring safety rule for everything. But his dog, Gloria, livens things up when she uses hilarious antics to pantomime each one. After reading the book, make a list of school safety rules. Then have students play the role of Gloria and act out why each rule is important.

Use Your Words

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.6

Children are often told to “use their words” to convey how they feel. PreK teacher Kristen Caran, of Small Steps Child Care Center in Hauppauge, New York, introduces terms that apply to manners: please, thank you, may I, I need help ______, and I feel ______.

“We discuss why we shouldn’t say things to make our friends feel bad, and talk about what it’s like to feel bad.”

Caran also uses a feelings chart to help students connect words with their emotions. A feelings chart pairs emotion words (angry, peaceful, confused) with pictures that illustrate emotions. Students point to a picture to identify the emotion they are experiencing.

Download the feelings chart pictured above here:

•  PreK-K: Feelings Chart

Community Helpers’ Rules

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.3

Make the connection between school rules and community helpers early on in the year. Invite a member of the school community (crossing guard, playground aide) or the local community (firefighters, police officers) to visit your class. Before your guest arrives, make a list of child-friendly rules that are relevant to the community helper’s job. When your visitor talks, add rules to the list that your class may have
forgotten. Then encourage students to ask questions about why those rules are important to the community helper’s role. For instance, a crossing guard might tell students they should walk across the street, not run. Students can ask the crossing guard why the rule exists. This will help them understand why they should abide by the rule—especially as the explanation is coming from the community helper. If you’re unable to get community helpers to come in, recruit parents or school staff to play the role of the helper.

Manners to Music

Standard Met: McREL Music Standard 1 Level Pre-K

Jenn Joyce, a PreK teacher at Bright Beginnings in Plantsville, Connecticut, uses music to practice school manners. Her class sings a song, which is excerpted below, to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” She adds movements to each verse to further engage students. “This is a great way to get kids ready for circle time and to slowly get them settled and ready to learn,” Joyce says.

“This Is the Way We Start Our Day”
This is the way we start our day,
start our day, start our day,
This is the way we start our day
so early in the morning.
(Hands on hips, swaying back and forth)

First we smile and shake a hand,
shake a hand, shake a hand,
First we smile and shake a hand
so early in the morning.
(Smile, then shake classmates’ hands)

There’s a song for teaching just about every manner on Mike Soloway’s album, Hungry for Manners: Songs of Kindness, Politeness and Love.

Caught on Camera

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.5c

What do good manners look like? Call on students to cite examples. You might discuss the following words or behaviors and why they’re important: saying “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “excuse me,” or “nice to meet you”; looking someone in the eye when you’re talking with them; raising a hand to speak and not interrupting; and keeping your hands to yourself. Make a T-chart, writing the manners in the left column. Then, take pictures as student volunteers act out each manner. (For actions that require words, cut out a piece of paper in the shape of a speech bubble. Write the word or phrase in the bubble for students to hold up.) Print out the photos and challenge students to glue the pictures in the correct row on the T-chart. Hang up the chart to refer to throughout the school year.

The Interrupt Rule

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1a

Preschool teacher Taylor Hernandez says the “interrupt rule is a big one” in her classroom at Bouquet Canyon Preschool in Saugus, California. She uses the following procedure to show students how to wait for their turn to talk: “If I am talking to someone, I teach my students to come to me and gently place their hand on my arm and wait,” she says. “When I am finished talking, I place my hand over theirs and say, ‘Thank you so much for waiting patiently. What did you need?’ ” Hernandez uses the rule during free choice and playtime, but not during circle time, when students are expected to raise hands. “It is never too early to teach children to wait their turn and show others respect,” she says.

The Golden Rule

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.8

Rachel Friedrich, a teacher at Steubing Elementary in San Antonio, suggests using the book Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller to teach “the golden rule.” The story features a rabbit that worries about how his new otter neighbors will act; a wise owl steps in and teaches the rabbit the golden rule. “Students love when I read this book—probably because I am one of those wacky teachers who uses silly voices and makes faces while I read,” Friedrich says. “It becomes part of my classroom management. When a conflict arises, I simply ask, ‘Did you do unto otters?’ And that can open the discussion of what happened and what different choices could be made next time.” Friedrich also made an activity packet to accompany the book that prompts students to articulate how they want to be treated and to recall times when they’ve shown good manners. See the sidebar for more books on rules.


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Image: Roger Hagadone

  • Part of Collection:
  • Subjects:
    Classroom Management, Feelings and Emotions, Early Social Skills, Manners and Conduct, School Life
  • Skills:
    Listening Comprehension, Vocabulary

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