Students reflect on their personal definitions of the word “respect” and work, in small groups, to create a “respect vision” that establishes what being respectful means to them.


Students will be able to:

  1. Create a personal definition of respect
  2. Define respect in terms of self, others, and environment
  3. Create a class definition of respect and class vision of respectful behavior


Pen/paper, large post-its or poster paper, markers and space for groups to brainstorm, materials to create your class’s vision (paint, pens, poster board, etc.)


Time Activity Notes
5 mins
  • As an opening to class, give each student silent time to answer the question, “What is respect?”
Little or no prompting is necessary before this activity so that students can bring their own ideas to the conversation without feeling like there is a “right” answer. Encourage students to respond authentically. You may want to play music during this time (thematic suggestions: “RESPECT”, Aretha Franklin, “Everyday People”, Sly and the Family Stone, “Imagine”, John Lennon, “Everything is Everything”, Lauryn Hill, “Get Together”, The Youngbloods) or ask students for a suggestion for a song about respect that you can pull up online.
5 mins
Respect Vision
  • Explain to the class that, rather than telling them what respect looks like in your class, you would like them to create their own class-wide definition.
  • They are going to work together in small groups to create a “respect vision” for the classroom establishing what being respectful means to them.
  • Each student already has their own definition, which they will use to work with a small group and create a list of things that they would like to see used in the whole-class vision of respect.
  • Once the class has created small group definitions, they will take time to examine each group’s definition, take the best ideas from each group, and put them together in one final vision of respect for the classroom.
  • This will be put up in the room and can be used to remind the class and other what respect looks like in your class.
10 mins
Small Group Brainstorm
  • Give students time in a small group to discuss their personal definitions of respect and brainstorm a list of things they can do to feel respected and to behave respectfully toward one another.
    • What does self-respect look like? What does treating each other with respect look like? What about respect for the environment? How can each of these be added to the class vision of respect?
  • These brainstorms can be on large paper and posted on the wall in the room for logistics in the next lesson activity.
Things to consider in guiding student brainstorms, to the extent that you feel it’s appropriate: Provide t-charts for brainstorming, with “respect” on one side and “not respect” on the other; ask students to provide examples of things that look like, sound like, and feel like on each side.
5 mins
Feedback Rotation
  • Every student should have a writing utensil for this phase of the lesson.
  • Once groups are done brainstorming, make sure each brainstormed list is posted on the wall or somewhere all students can see it and write on it.
  • Then, have each student (as an individual now, no longer in small groups) walk around the room and read the ideas on the other groups’ papers.
  • Encourage students to make notes on the other groups’ papers when they agree strongly with another idea and would like to see it in the respect vision (you may want to set expectations for no negative comments).
  • Students can also be encouraged to ask questions or add more information to other ideas in the room.
  • This activity should be done quietly and independently to give students time to read and process all of the other ideas
You can establish a code for writing on other groups’ posters for ease: a star means “strongly agree”, a question mark means “I don’t understand”, etc.
10 mins
Group Consensus and Drafting
  • Lead the group in examining the notes written on the posters and identifying trends in the ideas and the most popular ideas.
  • When guiding the group to a consensus, aim to hear all student voices, avoid personal biases or their own definition of respect, and honor the students’ vision of respect.
Depending on the developmental and skill level of your students, you may want to step out of this phase of the lesson and allow the group to come to a consensus on the ideas in the respect vision without you.
5 mins
Final Draft
  • The group should establish a means to create a final draft of the respect vision, whether that is selecting a student to write it out, having you create the large poster or some other means of writing it.
5 mins

See the questions under “Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment” below.

  • Have students answer these questions in a format that works for your class, whether that is on paper, in smalls groups, as a whole-class discussion, etc.
2 mins

Post the class vision of respect visibly in the room and remind students that it will remain up so that they can hold themselves, each other, and you accountable for the ideas that they have created.

Connections to Other Emotions

Creating a respectful environment will also foster the emotion of safe/comfortable, allowing students to feel like they can take emotional and intellectual risks in your class.

Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment

  • What will our class be like if everyone follows the vision of respect?
  • Do you think your original definition of respect is captured in the class vision? Why or why not?
  • What is one specific way (please give a concrete example) that you can help our room live up to its vision of respect?