Ideas to Teach Respect in Schools


Respect has become a valuable character trait both in our personal lives and in our classrooms, but sometimes it can be challenging to determine who is responsible for teaching respect, as well as how we each define it.

Respect has become a valuable character trait both in our personal lives and in our classrooms, but sometimes it can be challenging to determine who is responsible for teaching respect, as well as how we each define it. The reality is, neither parents or teachers are solely responsible for teaching respect to students. It is a collaborative effort between schools and families and it is consistently reinforced through meaningful interactions.

I once asked my Kindergartners to tell me what respect meant to them. They all had sweet anecdotes of times when they shared with friends or listened to the teacher’s instruction, but there was one particular response that resonated with me the most. One student shared with the group how they respected their classmate by learning the alphabet in that student’s native language. That was a special moment. These students were able to articulate and give examples of respect in a way that expanded my own idea of this value. This conversation affirmed that respect was fundamental to the culture of our classroom. I realized that learning the importance of embracing difference and creating an inclusive learning environment is what respect looked like in our classroom.

Students and teachers are learning what respect looks and feels like through various experiences. At the foundation, learning respect means discovering more about the people you interact with and appreciating those differences. For example, teaching students to identify similar interests or differing beliefs and then creating opportunities for students to work together toward a common goal.

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There are so many creative ways to teach respect in schools. One powerful approach is through literacy. Introducing books that address topics related to respect is a great way to teach students about it and foster conversation.

Here are 10 books about respect to add to your library:

  • A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
  • Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
  • Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
  • It’s Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr
  • Pete the Cat and the New Guy by James Dean and Kimberly Dean
  • Suki’s Kimono by Chierie Uegaki
  • The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts
  • The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss
  • The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill

As an introduction to learning more about respect through diversity, these books cover a wide range of scenarios. These stories make for great reading circles, partner reads and read alouds.

To further engage students pair the text with a “Know, Want to know, Learned” (KWL) activity. Start by having students share what they know about respect. Take note of their starting point. Next, have students share what they want to know about showing respect in your classroom. Then, use these points during the discussion about the book. Once the book is complete, continue the conversation and have students name what they learned. The KWL chart will help students process the new topic and build on their knowledge.

Reading is fun but learning respect takes time. Expect to reiterate the points covered in your discussion. Students will need to rehearse engaging with others and the teacher will need to reinforce the respectful habits with praise constantly.

As students are learning about respect in the classroom, this is also a chance to engage families. Sharing this book list is a great way to encourage positive behavior outside of school and provide parents with resources to support classroom learning.

Students and teachers practice respect as a way to create and sustain a culture that is both inclusive and focused on learning. Celebrating diversity at early ages encourages kids to connect with people from all walks of life. Respect is about developing a sense of inclusion and appreciation. We owe it to each other to do just that! Dr. Seuss said it best, “A person's a person, no matter how small.”

Kickboard helps teachers reinforce behaviors like Respect in the classroom, and gather data on character traits schoolwide. Click here to learn more about how Kickboard can support classroom management, PBIS, or SEL in your school.