Ground rules can help us create and maintain spaces to engage in authentic, meaningful conversations, with a baseline expectation of respectful and appropriate behavior. They can guide conversations and optimize their effectiveness, especially when discussing rather tense, sensitive, or controversial topics. Let’s consider the ways in which ground rules can be used!

When we first hear the phrase “ground rules,” we are likely to envision instances like the one shown above. While the context is certainly different from intentional instances of civil discourse, the children highlight several important points. They ask clarifying questions, in order to ensure understanding and ultimately arrive at the same conclusion. Ground rules will simply not work if they are not understood by everyone involved! Let’s take a look at another example, which involves the use of “discussion guidelines.”

This example not only highlights the importance of ground rules, but it offers a comprehensive overview of many key techniques from this module. The ways in which these kids speak to one another, and openly engage with sensitive topics, is truly incredible, with the potential to permanently influence the lives of each participant. These skills undoubtedly improve over time, too!

Within the context of this particular activity, there are several potentially useful, impactful ground rules to implement. We encourage you to go beyond these examples, but let’s take a look at five simple ground rules that we hope get you started.