Classroom rules and procedures are essential for a productive learning environment. If teachers do not take time at the beginning of the year to set these up properly, they are rushing into a year without providing students with the consistency they need. If rules and procedures are implemented correctly, this sets the tone for expectations, and students as well as the teacher will have a much more successful year.
Talk to Fellow Teachers
The first thing teachers should do (especially if they are a first year or have moved to a new school) is talk to their colleagues. Experienced teachers can give excellent insight and advice to new teachers. This will give them guidance, but will also help them to know what other teachers are doing so that they know what is consistent across a grade level or the entire school. Every teacher wants to do their own thing, but it is important that there is some consistency so students and parents know what to expect.
Focus on Respect
When establishing rules and procedures it is so important to focus on teaching kids to respect each other as well as adults. A great book to read when working with your students to create classroom rules and commitments is Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller. This book focuses on manners and why it is important to treat others the way we want to be treated.
Getting students involved in helping create the classroom rules and commitments ensures they are invested because they were a part of the process, as opposed to being given a set of rules by the teacher.
Another idea is to type up the rules and commitments to create a classroom agreement and have students sign it. This makes them feel so important, and if they break a rule or commitment, when the teacher discusses it with them they can remind them they are letting down their classmates because they are not keeping their commitment to the agreement.
Some schools also have character education programs that support teaching respect, caring for others, being honest, etc. There are some great ones out there (The Leader in Me, The Hero Builder), but if your school doesn’t have one you can always implement your own version of this so that students understand how important these qualities are in life.
If you spend the time creating rules with students as mentioned above, then your job is to reinforce those rules consistently. If this happens, you can really reduce unwanted behavior and keep students on the right path.
Another way to help students follow the rules is by keeping them engaged. If students are engaged, then they do not have time to misbehave. High engagement can be implemented with rigorous academic tasks as well as making classroom procedures and expectations easy to follow so students know exactly what to do and how to do it.
You can also have a student of the week that is a go-to student to ask if someone forgets what to do. This student could be identified by wearing a special hat, sash, or name badge. This also helps with behavior, because this could be an incentive. If teachers focus on the positive things they see students doing, then that also highlights wanted behaviors instead of calling out students who are doing the wrong thing.
Choose Logical Consequences
When students do choose to misbehave it is important to make sure their consequences are logical and reasonable. For example, if a student chooses not to do their work during class, then they can have a working lunch where they must complete it when they finish eating. Another example would be if a student writes on their desk with a marker, then they should be required to clean it off and write a note of apology to the teacher and custodian.
The best way to focus on positive behavior is to reward those who are doing the right thing. Our school uses PBIS, and when we see students doing what is expected, we give them “star bucks” and they can spend them on the star cart to buy a prize; or they can choose to save them for a bigger prize such as being on the school news or having lunch with the assistant principal or principal. Some free things that they can buy are a no shoes pass or a hat pass.
Work within District Guidelines
Teachers should also make sure anything they choose to implement in their classroom follows district guidelines. This is critical for legal and accountability purposes. If you are ever unsure, set up a time to talk with your school’s administration. They can help guide and advise you to make sure you are following best practices, but also adhering to what is expected and approved.