When it comes to creating my classroom rules I follow three pieces of advice I received when I first began teaching:
Tip 1. Write the rules with your class, so that you have student buy in. This does not mean that the students write the rules. It simply means that as a class you discuss what the rules should be. Ultimately you are able to guide and re-word students’ ideas so that they match the rules you need and want in your classroom.
Tip 2. Make sure that your rules are written in a positive way. I make sure that I write my rules so that they state the action students will do, versus actions we don’t want to see in the classroom. For example I would write “we will respect one another” versus “we will not be mean”. The second example uses the behavior we want to eliminate from our class, so the first step in eliminating it is not writing it down. I know it sounds a little silly, but it works.
Tip 3. Have five rules or less. We follow 4 rules in my classroom, they are simple and to the point. This way students don’t have too many rules to remember.
On the first day of school I tell the class that we will spend a lot of time together this school year. I explain that we want to have a wonderful year, and that we need some rules to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy. I then ask them what the rules should be. Students raise their hands, and I write all of their ideas on the board. After everyone has been heard, I point out that a lot of the rules are very similar. Then I tell them that we can combine similar rules into one rule. We then begin to construct the actual 4 rules that I need in my room.
Here are the four classroom rules my class usually ends up with:
1. We will act appropriately.
2. We will respect ourselves and others.
3. We will keep our hands, feet, and objects to ourselves.
4. We will remain in our seats unless we have permission to leave them.
I teach second grade, so we do discuss the meaning of the word appropriately and the word respect. This is usually easy, because my students have just had a discussion where they gave examples of behaviors they wanted (or didn’t want) to see in the room. You would be surprised how well students know appropriate school behavior from inappropriate.
When I first began using the rule “we will act appropriately”, I was nervous that it was too general. Now, I love it because it covers everything. I do not need a separate rule saying “we will walk in the hallway” because that is appropriate school behavior.
Rule #4 “we will remain in our seats, unless we have permission to leave them” may sound a bit harsh. The reality is that in a classroom there are times when students need to stay in their seats. We follow the CHAMPS procedures in my classroom so I am careful to adjust the movement sign when students do have permission to move around freely.
We write these rules the first day of school, and go over them each day during the first week of school. When we come back from holiday break we once again spend a lot of time reviewing our rules.
So, what are the consequences when the rules are not followed? In my room we have something called Friday choices the last 20 minutes of the day on Fridays. It is a wonderful reward that my students look forward to. It’s 20 minutes of free choice time. I have board games, thinking games like a Marble Run and PicassoTiles, and art activities for my students to choose from. I also have a chart on one of my bulletin boards with each child’s name on it. I laminate it, and attach a vis-a-vis marker to it. If a child breaks one of our rules, they give themselves a check. For each check a child receives, they lose one minute of Friday choices. My students LOVE choices, and because it’s a reward that they want, most students work hard not to lose any of it.
In the past I have taken time away from recess. The problem with that is your most active students need recess to run around and get rid of their extra energy. Taking away part of their recess time, can end up making them more hyperactive. It’s a fine line, and you will discover what works best for you and your class.
I also let students know if the misbehavior is bad I will call home, (and I do). If the consequence is severe enough they will also have to meet with our principal. The principal may then want to meet with their parent. Finally, I remind students that if the action is truly severe it may result in a school suspension or expulsion. I go over all of the consequences with my students the first day of school as well. Most students will never have a behavior severe enough to warrant the final consequence, but they need to know that it exists.
I hope that you’ve found my tips helpful! Do you have any rules or consequences that really work for you? Please share them in the comments section below.