We waste a lot of time in education. Most American students are in school between 175 and 180 days a year, or around 49% of the year. Once you start to factor out days at the beginning and end of semesters, holidays, breaks, absences, and shortened schedules the time spent on rigorous critical thinking begins to dwindle even further. 

We need to tackle each year with a sense of urgency. We don’t have a lot of time to waste. We need to set the expectation for our students that we are going to work hard. Every. Single. Day. It seemed like just about every week I would have a student in my 8th grade math class say, “We’re not going to work today are we?”  What they would say next would vary:  

“It’s Friday.”   

“It’s the day before break.”   

“It’s snowing out.”   

“It’s three days before St. Patrick’s day.”   

My response was always the same:  

“We work every day.”   

You have the weekend to sleep. You have the break to watch Netflix. We don’t have time to waste.   

I can’t even blame the students. We’ve set the expectation to have days that don’t involve thinking or hard work. The problem isn’t the occasional class party or incentive trip to the skating rink. The problem is that those minutes at the end of class, those hours before the end of the day, those days before breaks add up. We don’t have that kind of time to waste. 

This year we’re going to be focusing a lot of maximizing every moment and taking back opportunities for critical thinking. 

What about the first day of school? Kids know the first few days of school don’t involve a lot of work. But what if this year you set the tone right away that we work every day? 

What do you cover on the first day of school?  Rules. Is there really any activity that involves more critical thinking than rule making?  Why not involve your students in the process of rule-making this year?   

  • Why do we have rules?   
  • What would happen without rules?  Would students still come to school and work hard without them? 
  • What rules have you had in the past that were ineffective?  Why do you think they didn’t work? 
  • What issues at school keep you from learning?  What rules could address those situations? 
  • Can you make a rule to address any situation? 
  • Do rules need to be specific or general?  Why? 
  • What consequences should there be for breaking the rules? 
  • Do consequences keep students from breaking the rules?  Why or why not? 
  • What will different stakeholders (principals, students, parents, teachers) think about different consequences? 

Involving your class in ACTUALLY thinking deeply about rules and taking an active role in their creation not only develops greater student buy-in but sets the tone that this year we work every day.   

Pressed for time?  (Answer- Always.) We’ve created a rule-making lesson that you can purchase on TPT for just $4.00. Our lesson goes through all of the questions listed above with a teacher’s guide, students work pages, and PowerPoint. The thinkLaw rule-making lesson will easily take two classroom periods at the secondary level or can be shortened to meet your needs! 


To order a critical thinking assessment for your students or to learn how your school or organization can adopt thinkLaw’s standards-aligned program that helps educators teach critical thinking to all students, please click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team or call us now at (702) 318-7512. Join us on our next webinar: Thinking Like a Lawyer: Powerful Strategies to Teach Critical Thinking to All Students