Introducing Elementary Students to Online Expectations

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

5.4 Managing Student Behavior by Establishing Expectations
Standards of conduct are clear to all students.

When focusing on methods to incorporate a safe and inclusive elementary classroom, the teacher should provide opportunities for students to understand online safety. Classroom teachers are so bombarded with their every day academic curriculum requirements that this instruction can be easily overlooked. Many times, it is assumed that students understand how to behave and treat each other in an online forum. Ribble & Miller (2013) point out the fact that “…many students are using technology without awareness of technology use etiquette and/or Digital Citizenship requirements” (p. 142). It is important to instill this expectation at the beginning of the year, prior to allowing students to use the Internet. Furthermore, students shouldn’t be told the rules and expectations when participating in online activities, but rather, should be taught them through a process of understanding and reflection. Some would argue that there isn’t time for this but in a well-managed classroom, these expectations could be established at the beginning of the year and reinforced as online assignments come up.

Students need to be taught about online safety at their learning level. Fortunately, there are many resources for teachers to utilize in order to teach responsible online etiquette at all grade levels. First, the transfer of handling strangers in “real life” to those in virtual environments is not automatic. It needs to be taught (Hertz, 2012, paragraph 3). For example, younger students may not grasp what adults mean by “cyber bullying” and thus will need to be introduced to this concept by learning about online safety and etiquette. BrainPOP and other educational sites have excellent resources such as videos, follow-up classroom activities (such as word walls and journal activities), and classroom discussion templates. Figure 1 shows an example of a BrainPOP video with an intended elementary audience.


Figure 1: BrainPOP Internet safety video (Internet Safety, n.d.)

There are also curriculum materials that can further assist students in understanding how to treat each other online. For example, students can participate in Socratic Seminars and classroom meetings. During these meetings they can be introduced to material based on their age levels. Englander (2010) outlines a curriculum that scaffolds lessons for each grade level. Figure 2 illustrates a sample of a word wall activity that can help introduce the concept of cyberbullying for a Kindergarten classroom.

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Figure 2: Kindergarten curriculum sample (Englander, 2010, p. 12).

Lastly, there are many resources online. is a great example of a web resource that has a variety of lesson plans for teachers. Figure 3 shows an example of a web page outlining learning materials for a lesson on cyberbullying. Teachers can download documents directly from this site.


Figure 3: Cyberbullying K-2 lesson (Screen out the mean, 2016).

Students should not be set forth to do work online without knowing online rules and expectations. Rather than allow a lesson on online safety be overwhelming, it could be helpful to include this education in a classroom management plan. Students are spending more time now than ever online so naturally, it would be important to prepare them to be successful. It should also never be assumed that students, especially at the elementary level, understand the rules and expectations for online behavior. In addition, there are a lot of online resources available to teachers if their school does not already have a plan in place.


Englander, E. K. (2010). K-5 curriculum: Bullying and cyberbullying prevention. Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) at Bridgewater State University. Retrieved from

Hertz, M. B. (2012). How to teach Internet safety to younger elementary students. Edutopia. Retrieved from

Internet safety (n.d.) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Ribble, M. & Miller, T. M. (January 2013). Educational leadership in an online world: Connecting students to technology responsibly, safely, and ethically. Educational Leadership in an Online World, 17:1, 137-145. Retrieved from

Screen Out the Mean (K-2): What can you do when someone is mean to you online? (2016). [Image of website]. Common Sense Media Inc. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Introducing Elementary Students to Online Expectations

  1. This is a very informative and well-written post. Nice work! You bring up a very valid point that teachers need to take the time at the start of the year to ensure their students truly understand online safety. I’m sure there are many younger students that won’t really know what cyberbullying is or how to behave in an online forum.


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