Group Rules and Expectations

What You Need

Group Rules and Expectations


To help students better recognize and understand how groups influence the behavior of their members through rules and expectations.


In this lesson, students will focus on how groups influence the behavior of their members. They learn how groups have certain expectations and rules that promote a desired type of behavior and that members who do not behave accordingly can face certain consequences, including exclusion from the group. Students will also perform a critical examination of the key social groups in life that influence their behavior and expectations of themselves—the family unit, school, and peer groups.

In general, people are born into certain groups based on their personal, social, and cultural surroundings. People also voluntarily join groups based on shared occupations, beliefs, or interests. Membership in these groups influences how people think of themselves and how others think of them. These groups impose expectations and rules that make the behavior of members more predictable and that enable each group to function smoothly and retain its identity. The rules may be informal and conveyed by example or they may be written rules that are strictly enforced. (Science for All Americans, pp. 91–93.)

At these grade levels, students should now be able to understand what behavior is and is not acceptable. Although the emphasis of their study of group behavior should be generally positive, students at this level are beginning to form cliques and should be aware of what it is like to be excluded as well as to be included (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 158.)

As children try to understand biological and social phenomena, they often over-generalize information about racial and cultural differences. One must be cautious, however, not to assume that children are prejudiced or deliberately using stereotypes when they over-generalize. They may simply be thinking typically for young children trying to make sense out of their limited experience with other groups. Research indicates that stereotypic attitudes begin to develop about seventh grade.

Research supports the view that lower elementary-school children are aware of some of the many ways in which rules vary. For example, children agree that some rules in their culture are more important than others and that some rules are more universally right than others. In addition, children are aware of the social function of different kinds of rules. They may go through alternating developmental periods of affirming versus negating social conventions. Only near the end of middle school and the beginning of high school do students start to accept the need for social conventions to facilitate social interactions in their groups. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 347.)

Planning Ahead

Note: If available, copies of your school's student rules should be made and passed out to the class as part of this lesson. If unavailable, a sample copy of an elementary school's code of conduct can be used instead. It is listed in the Websites Used section and in the body of the lesson.


Begin the lesson by writing the benchmark on the blackboard or on a sheet of paper to be passed out:

    Different groups have different expectations for how their members should act. Sometimes the rules are written down and strictly enforced, sometimes they are just understood from example.

After reading the benchmark out loud to the class, possible discussion questions include:

  • What is a group?
  • What are some examples of different groups?
  • What kinds of groups are people born into? Join?
  • What are expectations? Can a group have expectations?
  • Let's look at the group (example from answers to 2nd question). Are there expectations within this group? What are they?
  • Do the expectations influence how you behave? Discuss.
  • Are there any stated rules for this group? If so, what are they?
  • Are there rules that are not stated but understood? What are some examples?
  • What would happen if there were no rules about behavior in a group?


Continue by helping students identify families as critically influential groups that affect individual and group behavior. Opening questions could include:

  • How are families formed? What is their purpose?
  • In what ways do they influence behavior? (They could influence behavior by establishing rules and modeling proper behavior.)
  • Who is usually in charge of the family group?
  • What kinds of expectations do parents usually have of their children?
  • How do parents usually want their children to behave? Why?

Distribute the Family Rules, Expectations, and Behavior student sheet that has students assess their own families in terms of rules, expectations, and behavior. Upon completion, discuss with the class its findings and reinforce key points.

Next, lead a discussion that contrasts the workings and behavioral influence of family and school with questions like:

  • Why do you attend our school? Why are you part of this class?
  • How are the rules you follow in school different from the ones in your family?
  • How is your behavior different in school than at home?
  • In what ways are expectations different at school than at home?

Pass out a copy of the student rules for your school or direct students to a website of another elementary school that has a list of rules, like: Cambridge Elementary School: Cougar Code of Conduct, Expectations, Rules, Rewards & Consequences.

After students read and discuss the list of rules, pass out the School Rules, Expectations, and Behavior student sheet, which will have them more deeply consider the rules, expectations, and behavior that they are expected to follow in school. Upon completion, discuss with students their findings, how they feel about school rules and expectations, how it affects their immediate behavior, etc.

Peer Groups
A distinction needs to be made between family/school and peer groups, where students have a bit more say or control over rules, expectations, and member behavior.

As part of this effort, have a talk with your students about peer groups. Include questions like these:

  • What are peer groups?
  • What are some examples of peer groups?
  • What is the purpose of forming a ______?
  • What kinds of peer groups do you belong to?
  • How is your behavior different in _____ than at school (or with your family)?
  • Have you ever experienced any peer pressure?

Again, to further their understanding and comprehension, distribute the Peer Group Rules, Expectations, and Behavior student sheet, asking them to think about one of the groups of friends they hang out with. Upon completion, discuss with students their findings and reinforce key points.


For this part of the lesson, divide the class into groups to form clubs. Assign each group a club title or identity, like band, soccer team, drama club, chess club, etc. Before students begin the activity, ask them: "What kinds of things do you have to consider when forming a club?" Elicit responses from students.

Now, tell the newly formed clubs that they should develop their own rules/codes of conduct to ensure that members behave in a certain way. Club members should consider these questions when trying to establish their clubs:

  • How often will the club meet?
  • Where will the club meet?
  • How will members of the club make decisions?
  • How will disputes be settled?
  • What do members have to do in order to stay in the club?
  • Are there any actions that could get someone thrown out of the club?

Each club should write down its rules and terms on a piece of paper. When finished, have each club discuss before the class the basic rules and terms under which the club is going to function, the underlying rules and conduct that will help to ensure that possible disputes are settled and club goals are met, and the kinds of behavior that could jeopardize a member's future participation in the club.

Finally, close the lesson by reviewing key discussion questions and lesson material. The subject matter can be extended further by having students answer questions like these:

  • What can you do when you do not like a rule or expectation of a group that you belong to?
  • What kinds of groups would you like to join in the future? How might these groups influence your behavior?
  • What is important to remember when you are being pressured by a group to do something you do not want to do?


It's My Life, from the PBS Kids website, provides an online venue where kids can go to read and talk about the stuff that they have to deal with every day.

Dealing With Peer Pressure is an article on the KidsHealth website that discusses peer pressure.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Type Project 2061 Benchmarks