Teaching Guide

Teaching PBIS: Responsibility

Because your students will be adults one day.


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People often achieve authority and respect by taking responsibility. A president takes responsibility for the country. A CEO takes responsibility for a company. A sports captain takes responsibility for his team. We expect these people to act responsibly. To not endanger the public, embezzle money, or deflate footballs.

Our teaching guide is fully inflated and ready to help you deliver a touchdown pass (or other sports metaphor of choice) on responsibility.

In this guide you will find

  • resources full of examples of responsible real-world people from a variety of backgrounds, like scientists, poets, and Ned Flanders.
  • discussion questions about different types of responsibility people have for friends, for family, and for classmates and co-workers.
  • a fun activity with a water-based group game.

We feel responsible for helping your students learn responsibility, if only so we don't see them on TMZ a decade from now getting busted for, uh, irresponsible behavior.



Learning to be responsible for oneself is the cornerstone in the great temple of behavioral expectations. Today, students will explore what it means to take personal responsibility. For homework, students will set personal responsibility goals.

Key Skills and Learning Objectives

  • Define and understand what the term "personal responsibility" means.
  • Identify how much personal responsibility students experience in their daily lives.
  • Recognize the importance of personal responsibility and accountability in everyday life.
  • Shift paradigms on personal responsibility expectations.
  • Develop confidence through group participation.


  • Yesterday: Nada, zip, zilch
  • Today: Personal responsibility goals


Materials Needed: Access to "Take Personal Responsibility for Your Life and Happiness" article; quotes about responsibility to post around the room; post-it notes; pens/pencils and notebook paper

Estimated Time to Complete: 60 minutes

[We've set up this lesson so that you read the scenario aloud to students. If you'd rather save your voice for karaoke after work, you could always print out the story and have students work through it individually or in groups. Either way, have students take out a sheet of paper and a pen for writing their story responses written.]

We're going to kick this lesson off by reading a story. I'm going to read aloud, pausing periodically for you to write down how you'd respond to the scenarios the story introduces. There are no right or wrong answers—this is about you, so just put yourself into the main character's shoes and jot down what you'd do every time I stop reading. Ready? Here goes.

[Read the story from the handout. Give students a few minutes to write down their answers to each question along the way.]

Now let's look back at your responses.

  • First, give yourself two points any time you made an excuse or blamed another person. [For example, did students blame mom for not waking them up? Did they blame the bad interview and the cut on forgetting their friend's event? Did they make up a goofy excuse for being late? Did they smash the cash register with a nearby bat when it started fizzing out?]
  • Now give yourself two points for numbers questions six through nine if you answered "yes."
  • Also give yourself two points if you decided to shirk a responsibility even though it was the "right thing to do." [For example, did students park in the handicapped spot? Did they blow off the essay?]

So what on earth does this have to do with personal responsibility? The higher your number, the more likely you are to blame others for your unfortunate events, push accountability off yourself, and take the "easy way" out even if that includes risk (stuff like speeding, texting while driving, sleeping rather than doing your essay).

So You're Irresponsible. Now What?

Responsibility is a big, scary word that many adults haven't quite figured out. What does it even mean? Most of us kind of know it when we see it, but it can be hard to define.

Take a look at the quotes pinned up around the room. Think of one to five word definitions to help describe responsibility.

[At this point, allow students to walk around the room and view the quotes. You might encourage them to take a notebook and pen to write down a few definition ideas. After everyone has reconvened, discuss student findings and come up with a user-friendly definition of responsibility.]

Having a strong sense of personal responsibility will create a more successful, stable, and logical individual. And gosh darn it, people will like you.

[Break students up into small groups (ideally seven) and make sure every student has access to "Take Personal Responsibility for Your Life and Happiness"—they'll need it for this activity and homework. Give students a chance to read through the piece.]

What are some of the benefits of taking personal responsibility? [Take student answers.]

What are some of the roadblocks to taking personal responsibility? [Take student answers.]

There are specific ways we can take responsibility for our choices, words, and actions. It takes practice and resolve, but being a consistently responsible human being is totally doable.

I'm going to assign group one of the seven items included in the article we just read under the "How to Take Responsibility for Your Life" section. From there, each group will write a two-to-five minute skit demonstrating what their particular item looks like in action. At the end, you'll perform your skits in front of the class.

[Assign items to groups and then give them time to work, being sure to leave enough time to present the skits and wrap up.]

Wrap Up

Hopefully, you are seeing how important it is for your own well being to strive for personal responsibility. It's time to quit the blame game, time to call time-out on playing the victim, and time to just stop complaining. As you head out the door today, I'm going to hand you a post-it note to jot down a moment you've taken personal responsibility. It can be anything from not complaining about that nasty cabbage soufflé your mom made for dinner to doing your own laundry. No need to put your name on it, though I will be hanging these up in the room.


For homework, re-read the "Take Personal Responsibility for Your Life and Happiness" article and choose two personal responsibility goals that you are going to work on this week. Write one paragraph for each goal explaining how you are going to work to achieve it and how it will improve your life.


  1. Have you ever made an excuse or blamed another person for something that was really your fault? How would that situation been different if you had just owned up?
  2. How important is asking for forgiveness?
  3. Why are people apt to trust you more if you own up to your mistakes?
  4. Theodore Roosevelt said, "If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month."What is he implying? How does this change your understanding of personal responsibility?
  5. How do you balance personal responsibility with personal desires? What if they don't match up? What if they do?
  6. What do logic and personal responsibility have to do with one another?
  7. External validation is hard not to rely on. But what happens when you get to a point where you don't need others to feel good about yourself? Is this possible? How?
  8. You can't control other people. What does this statement have to do with personal responsibility?
  9. Do you agree that personal responsibility is the foundation for personal growth? Why or why not?
  10. How should we treat others who may not have any sense of personal responsibility? How can we help them?