How To Teach Respect in the Classroom

How to teach respect in the elementary classroom. Address disrespectful behavior before it takes over your class.


It is easy to identify disrespect in the classroom.  It may be a student or students:

  • Talking during a lesson or movie
  • Taking or destroying school supplies or property
  • Talking back to the teacher
  • Not following the rules of the classroom on purpose
  • Treating other students poorly

As a teacher, when disrespect occurs I feel stressed, as do the other students in the class.  The environment in the classroom changes and the emphasis focuses on the student or students causing the situation.  Some years it feels like I have a disrespectful gang of students, that is just focused on sabotaging the learning environment.  

How do I deal with this Behavior?

I thought that teaching school would be like doing a business job, I walk in and start teaching the curriculum set forth by the district. I soon found out that I am developing a classroom community and you can’t teach until policies and procedures are in place. Respect encompasses so many things that it is a big umbrella of following rules, self-control, and being able to treat others how you want to be treated.

1. Set Rules and Expectations in the Classroom

Discuss rules and expectations often. Take the time, before a lesson activity or video to discuss your expectations. Set the scene by describing what respectful behavior looks like. If I have a lesson practicing scissors activity, I would discuss walking with scissors, putting them away, and picking up the trash after they are done.

2. Teach Respect

Have a lesson on respect after teaching rules and expectations in the classroom. For younger students start with a social story then end with a craft.

Respect Social Story and Craft

A great video to give an overview of what is respect is:

For older students, this could be in just a discussion format or break the students into groups with flip chart paper. Discussion prompts could be:

  • How do you show respect to your friends, family or classmates?
  • What does it feel like when you or someone you are close to is disrepected?
  • Describe a time when you were respected?

3. Address Disrespectful Behavior

If a student is being disrespectful address the action as soon as possible. Start the conversation with the student by telling what you saw and then go silent, prompting them to speak. Wait time is key to this process. After the student responds carry on the conversation:

  • How would you feel if that happened to you?
  • Is this respectful behavior and what are you going to do to correct this?
  • In the future, if this happens again what will you do?

Respect can be learned at any time of the year. Sometimes, if a new student joins the class, I begin reinforcing the concept of respect again. It is a lifelong skill that will help your students for years to come.

How To Teach Respect in the Classroom by Learning in an Hour

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