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Focus question 1: Why do we need rules and laws?

Teaching and learning activities

Activity 1: Guess my rules (40 min) ESL Activity 1
Activity 2: Rules of our lives (40 min) ESL Activity 2
Activity 3: Consequences (30 min) ESL Activity 3
Further activity  

Activity 1: Guess my rules (40 min)

A game without clear or public rules.

1a Divide the class into two teams, X and Y.
Use beanbags instead of balls.

1b Introduce the simulation game, 'Play the game, guess my rules'. Explain to students that they will play a game and must guess the rules.

  • Each team has a scoring end and gets a goal by putting the ball through the space marked.
  • Only the teacher knows the rules.
  • The teacher will not explain the rules and students cannot ask what they are.
  • When they break a rule, students must sit out.
  • The aim of the game is for the students to score and the task is to work out what the rules are so they do not break them.

Replace any of these rules with rules appropriate for your class.
The rules

  • Everyone can play the game.
  • Only boys can kick the balls.
  • Students whose given name starts with 'A' cannot run.
  • No-one is allowed to move with the ball.
  • Violence is not permitted.

1c On the sports court, begin play with these balls. Implement only two of the rules for the first minute.

1d Implement the rest of the rules and play for another minute.

1e Change all the rules (except the 'no violence' rule). For example, instead of 'everyone can play the game', the rule becomes 'only brown-eyed people can take part'. Play for another two minutes.

1f Gather the class together for a debriefing session:

  • What did you think of the game? Was it a good game? Was it a fair game? Give reasons.
  • How did you know that there were some rules?
  • How did you feel about not knowing what the rules were?

The croquet game or the mad-hatter's tea-party from Alice in Wonderland might be used to extend the activity.

1g Write the rules of the game on the board and ask students to indicate which ones you changed. Discuss whether it is fair that only one person:

  • made the rules
  • changed the rules
  • knew what the rules were.

Activity 2: Rules of our lives (40 min)

2a Review the game in Activity 1 and discuss the following terms with reference to the game:

  • equality
  • fairness
  • participation.

Ask students if everyone in the class has the right to expect these things.

2b In pairs, students list the above terms in order of importance (a) for their class and (b) for a community.

2c Discuss the need for rules in the school setting.

2d What are our rights? List students' suggestions of rights, for example, to be safe, to be treated with respect, to be educated, to be listened to, to participate, to be equal to others, to be treated fairly, to have a say.

2e What are we expected to do in return? (What are our responsibilities?) For example: The right to safety in the classroom matches the responsibility to keep the rules to make it safe.

Some students could now use the Stories of Democracy CD ROM.

2f In groups of four, students have three minutes to 'think, pair and share' ideas about the responsibility that matches each right. Provide each group with some adhesive labels. Groups record each right and matching responsibility on adhesive labels.

2g Students stick each label right next to a responsibility to make a class poster.

Stories of Democracy

Activity 3: Consequences (30 min)

3a In groups, students role-play situations in which rules are not kept. Groups first discuss rules that apply before conducting the role-play. Situations could include:

  • netball/football
  • using the school canteen
  • behaviour in the classroom
  • playing computer games
  • watching TV
  • wearing a school uniform
  • playing with friends
  • playing marbles or a board game.

Handout 13b For each broken rule, students should record the possible consequence
of the action on Handout 1.

3c Discuss the relationship between rules and consequences.

  • How do rules support our rights and responsibilities and help us live together safely, justly and well?
  • Why do we need rules and why do we need to know what they are?
  • How do we judge what is fair or not?
  • Do rules have to be fair for everyone?
  • How do people know what the rules are?
  • When and why do rules change?
  • Who should make the rules and why?
  • What can happen if we do not follow rules?

3d Each group completes the statement, 'We need rules because ...' on the back of their handout.

3e Conduct a class report-back.

Further activity

Students identify what rules have changed for them during their time at school and why. This could be recorded in a timeline displayed along a wall.

ESL activities

Back to 'Rules and Laws - At a glance'

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