Setting the rules and consequences with your class is very important. 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? I really like using logical consequences that students can have right after their misbehavior. If a student intentionally breaks a pencil, they have to use that broken pencil for the rest of the day. If a student takes something that belongs to another student they will give it back, and make the student a card apologizing. I actually sit down at the beginning of the school year and go through a list of all the common misbehaviors for my grade level and come up with a quick and logical consequence for that action. I write them down and stick to it.
This does not mean that I don’t call parents as well, but I find that calling home is more effective with some families than it is for others. I also find that students respond better when the logical consequence is rendered immediately.
Another strategy I use are rewards. In my room we have something called Friday choices that 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. Students have to earn choice time. If they misbehave as a class, or as an individual they will lose part, or all of choice time. This is a reward students work hard to make sure they earn.
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 explain the way logical consequences work with my students the first day of school as well.
I hope that you’ve found my tips helpful! One fun activity I use with my students the first week of school are these editable daily calendar cards. They love seeing pictures of themselves on the calendar cards. If you’re looking for more back to school tips, read my post on the first week of school.
Do you have any rules or consequences that really work for you? Please share them in the comments section below.