Classroom Rules – Keep them Simple for Greatest Impact
Every teacher tends to set at least a few rules for their classroom, and many that I have known establish an extensive list. I’ve come to the conclusion that rules are fine but unnecessary for achieving a great-performing classroom community. A teacher who continually sets clear expectations (and holds students accountable to those expectations) will find that referring to a poster filled with rules is not needed to address behavior problems.
However, many building principals expect you to set rules and your students may want to establish some as well. If so, these guidelines will provide a clear direction.
Rules about Rules
Keeping rules positive is very important, as is keeping them simple.
If your class arrives at a rule such as “We won’t shove in line,” it should be turned into, “We will be thoughtful at all times.” Such a positive approach reinforces the overall attitude you are seeking to instill in your class in all areas of behavior and performance.
As for simple, I believe that three or so rules are really all you need.
Distinguish between rules and expectations. It is inevitable that a teacher will establish a lot of expectations…every activity of every day is filled with them…but these do not need to be summarized into rules; there are just too many of them and they are far too detailed to post on you wall.
Take it one step further. If you have an expectation that all markers will be returned to their bin every day, then what you are really saying is that you expect the classroom to be kept clean. But keeping the classroom clean is, in itself, truly an expectation, and one that the kids will learn to respect as they internalize all of the expectations you set regarding classroom order throughout the year.
I encourage you to think even bigger regarding your classroom rules and to guide your students to a larger vision if they are brainstorming rules on the first day of class.
The number one rule
My go-to rule every year is one sentence: “Respect the learning and safety of others.” This rule is the summary of the most-effective classroom management systems I’ve tried and has served many classroom’s full of children well over the years.
Oh…I have one more rule that I put up in large letters on the wall, but it approaches the rules issue from a different direction. Here it is: “Try something!”
This rule addresses our academic approach, rather than our behavior expectations, but is every bit as important as a classroom motto when we are striving to create independent problem thinkers and problem solvers.
I provide more insights regarding classroom rule setting on this page of my website: www.classroom-teacher-resources.com/classroom-rules-t2.html
Betsy Weigle is the creator of www.classroom-teacher-resources.com the detailed information source for new elementary school teachers. For more information on the basics of student performance management, visit classroom management 101.