Rules, Shmules – Engage Your Students with Top Secret Ideas

04 Sep

I enjoy a good book now and then. And I really enjoy using picture books in class when students are working on a particular concept. I came across these two gems over the summer and think that they would be a great addition to any grade 1-6 classroom.

Wisniewski, D. (1998). The secret knowledge of grown-ups. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.

Wisniewski, D. (2001). The secret knowledge of grown-ups: the second file. New York: HarperCollins.

These books are a great read and resource for those teachers looking to talk about rules in a fun way. There’s lots of mystery and secrecy which gets the students hooked right away. The visuals and the format of the book also make it enticing to read.

The author, David Wisniewski, shares his undercover work with students as to the real reasons for why rules have been set up by grown-ups. Each of the stories that accompany the reason for the rule is so thoroughly described and humorous. Such as, in rule #61 where you shouldn’t play with your food since food doesn’t know when to quit when it gets riled up, of course. And rule #57 to not swallow your gum since without warning you could inflate and float away.   Point out to students, unless they guess first, that the author has a three-part pattern in the book.


  • One activity could be to have students in small groups or individually write up their own grown-up rule(s) and then a spoof on the rule. Students could establish ahead of time some criteria for an effective spoof of the rule. Using the Draft Sheet, Graphic Organizer, Pre-Writing Sheet and Student Samples to target the writing process may be of good use for you in the classroom.
  • Another activity could have students interview their parents about a grown-up rule that they themselves think is silly and see if they could come up with an interesting story to accompany it.
  • Students could use the Draft Sheet and then share their new rule and story via video.
  • Certainly, this will get students engaged and motivated but it also may get them to think critically about other rules in the community. Talk about some great dialogue both in the class and at home!

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