Teaching Good Manners

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Both in and outside the classroom, students can certainly benefit from having good manners. What are commonly accepted manners, and how can we teach students how to have them in engaging and fun ways? Use this lesson for some great ideas on teaching manners to your students.

What about Manners?

You may remember your parents asking you 'What's the magic word?' or telling you to call other adults 'Mister' and 'Missus.' Some of us had to wait for an adult to speak before talking, and others always addressed adults with a polite 'ma'am' and 'sir.' These habits are commonly thought to be standard manners, or being polite in social situations.

But who gets to decide what polite is? Some societal groups are fine with children addressing adults by first names, and others find this taboo. How can you navigate manners in your classroom while making sure students all understand the underlying ideal behind them?

Manners and Classroom Community

The best way for you to teach good manners in your classroom is to determine with your students a standard of behavioral expectations. This is not to say you allow students to determine your expectations, but rather that you lead them in discussions, guiding them (think 'Jedi mind trick!) towards a common understanding of how they should look, sound, feel and act in the classroom. Why is this?

Students who have an active part in determining classroom community have increased buy-in, meaning they are more likely to be part of the group than if the norms were dictated to them by you alone. When determining what manners you'd like your students to display, talk to them about general manners we all have, discussing reasons for these behaviors. You can also use activities and touchstone texts to teach and reinforce manners. Take a look.

Activities to Teach Good Manners

Table Manners

Have you seen your students in the cafeteria lately? Teach your students how to sit down to eat and use proper table manners by hosting a tea party. Connect to writing by creating invitations for another group of students, or perhaps a group from a local senior citizen home. Once RSVP's have arrived, set up a mock table, stocked with faux (or real) plates, silverware, napkins, and food for practice.

Walk through each expectation with students, listing on chart paper as you teach. For example, teach students how to use proper 'table voices.' Define the term, record on chart paper, then allow students to practice. Once they perfect, move on to 'How to ask for something to be passed.'

Practice in several short sessions. When the big day arrives, allow students to dress up and greet guests at the door. Assign one student to each guest, if possible, and instruct your students to be exemplary role-models for your guests. Take pictures to use later to create a 'Table Manners' book, and have students journal about their experience afterwards.

Role Play

After teaching about a specific good manner have students write and act out role playing, showing how the skill is used improperly and then asking the 'audience' to help reenact properly. For example, if you just taught students how to greet a stranger properly, students may role play a scene during which they say 'What's up?' when they meet someone new instead of the proper hand shake and 'Nice to meet you' scenario. After acting out the wrong way, students discuss modifications, then show how to do it right.

Card Games

Work with students to create a set of 'Good Manners Cards' to play a variety of games. Use index cards and markers, or cut images from magazines to make matching cards. For example, one set of cards may be on telephone manners, such as how to answer the phone. One card may show an image of a telephone, and the matching card be labeled 'May I please speak to (blank)?'

Students can use these matching cards to play memory, go fish, old maid, and so on. You may also use for charades topic cards or to match students up for activities.

Ms. (or Mr.) Manners

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