Teachers/professors are key to providing an atmosphere for the improvement and development of the minds of their students during classroom sessions. But how do teachers or professors go about achieving this? This is one of the questions that is most often asked in the academic settings, In addition to the other types of questions that are often associated with Who? What? When? Why? Where?
The “How questions” tend to be the more tasking of them all because such questions demand a well laid down explanation for an answer.
An example of this category of questions, “How do I set up or create effective classroom rules?” has plagued many in the academic sector, such as lecturers, teachers, professors, administrators, and facilitators. And this why this post has taken the time, with contributions from educational stakeholders, to address the issue.
But before we go any further, let’s define some terminologies like “Rules, Classroom, Effective, and the combination of the three terms; effective classroom rules.”
This can be referred to as guidelines that regulate the behaviors and actions of a group of people or organization. It also involves the evaluation of actions.
Rules and regulations are important to maintain order via emphasizing on the consequences associated with flaunting said rule(s).
Rules with regards to education?
A school can be regarded as a place where formal teaching, learning, and interactions are carried out. Schools, depending on the level of study could comprise classrooms that are arranged hierarchically.
School rules, according to Robert Thornberg (2008), are associated with classroom management and school discipline. But, in this article, emphasis will be placed on classroom rules, which of course falls within a school’s policy.
Rules in the classroom involve regulations and ground rules that are set by the instructor within the guidelines of the school policy, and in some cases via incorporating ideas from students.
Classroom rules are necessary not because teachers/ professors hate their students, but for the coordination and maintenance of the classroom proceedings.
And to be more specific, classroom rules are set for the following reasons:
• Classroom rules are important to maintain the overall order in the school system.
• Classroom rules are necessary to provide an environment that is physically and psychologically conducive for working.
• Classroom rules are vital to successfully coordinate students without any unnecessary distractions and interruptions.
• Classroom rules are essential to decrease alleviated competition amongst classmates and make them work towards a common goal.
• Classroom rules are necessary to enhance effective teaching.
• Classroom rules are important to give teachers or instructors a sense of control over the class.
• Classroom rules are critical to prevent problems in the classroom.
• Classroom rules are important to help achieve class management, which is an integral part of teaching-learning interactions.
• Classroom rules are great to help prepare students to be responsible members of society and to make them abide by the rules of society.
• Classroom rules are necessary to help students build effective interpersonal relationships devoid of harm, to mention these few.
Also, the aims of establishing rules in the classroom, according to the handbook written by B.G. Barbara, M.J Robert, C.F Maria, J.S Marzano; Handbook for classroom management that works, are:
• To provide learners with the needed platform for an effective study, and to help them realize that the classroom environment is a safe and organized place.
• To establish and instill in students the fact that school is an organization where improper behavior will not be condoned.
• To monitor and provide appropriate guidance in the school system through the teachers.
• To enable students to develop properly, with the understanding that there are rules that must be followed by everyone including the teachers.
The word “effective” refers to something or someone that produces a required or anticipated result.
Classroom rules are regarded as effective when the purpose and aim of creating the rules are achieved. For example, when the actions, behaviors, and attitudes of students conform to the rules.
Having defined these terms and also stated the reason and purpose for classroom rules, the topic will be discussed further under the following subheadings:
A) What teachers should know when setting up effective rules in the classroom.
B) Factors to consider in choosing effective classroom rules
C) Scope of effective classroom rules.
D) Guidelines to follow in the creation of efficacious classroom rules.
E) How to set up efficient rules in the classroom.
A) What Teachers Should Know About Effective Classroom Rules
Teachers should establish rules that will solve the following disruption of the expected atmosphere of the classroom. Some of these rules should stop the following:
a) The intentional disrespect of teachers
b) The disrespect of fellow students in the classroom,
c) Bullying, employing the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene words with either classmates or instructors.
d) Breaking the general rules of the school or interfering with the quietness of the classroom.
Teachers and professors should include the classroom rules in the syllabus and also inform the students of the classroom rules on the first day of class.
The students should also be reminded of the classroom rules when there is an opportunity for improvement, for example, in circumstances such as:
A) Whenever students exhibit behaviors and actions that disrupt effective classroom learning, including threatening or hindering the physical well-being of colleagues or instructors.
B) Whenever students show disrespect by making use of harmful words or gestures that posses a threat to peers, or activities that flaunt or break the regulation and school’s code of conduct.
C) Whenever student(s) are found guilty of the following: obscene physical contact, destruction of classroom properties, jesting and bullying, object throwing, involvement in harmful activities, and encouraging other students to behave disrespectfully, to mention these few.
When the actions mentioned above are observed, the instructor may take the step of excusing such students from the class and handing such students over to the appropriate disciplinary authority.
Also, the student might be referred for counseling. However, the inclusion of “referral for counseling” shall cut across but not limited to the resolution of a fight, resolving differences between peers and coping with stressors.
Parents should also be notified of any improper or abusive behavior of wards in a written format, and a copy should be provided to the administrative head of the school.
B) Factors To Consider In Choosing Effective Classroom Rules
There are many factors involved when choosing effective classroom rules. And now, let’s take a look at a couple of them:
• Age of learners:
Classroom rules should be made in relation to the age of the students. For instance, a kid in the second grade of primary school will understand and remember short and simple rules such as:
“We will raise our hand to talk,” and not bulky and long rules like “Raise your hand when you have a question or would like to share a comment.”
The latter rule may be suitable for a fifth-grader. Hence, the age of students is an important factor to consider when setting up effective classroom rules.
• Learners attention:
Teachers, when designing classroom rules to be posted on walls for recitals and remembrance, should make use of attention catchers that might prompt repetitive reading of the rules.
This will help ingrain the rules in the mind of the students, therefore preventing them from falling short of the rules, and not to mention facing the consequence(s).
An example of such a design would be the drawing of a likable song artist with some kind of funny expression, pointing towards the rules of the classroom. This can be drawn on boards around the classroom.
• Learners’ characteristics:
At this point, it is important to remind professors, teachers, school administrators, lecturers, facilitators, to mention these few that each stage of child development has its peculiarities and distinguishing features. For instance, teenagers within the age bracket of 13 -- 19 years are transitioning into adulthood.
And one of the major ponderings of this age group of students, according to Erik Erickson’s psychosocial theory of human development, is the role they will play in the adult world. They might be tempted to display these pondered roles in the classroom, which might lead to disrespect towards the teachers.
But, if teachers know the developmental stage of such students, the teacher will not be too offended, and s/he will know how to help such a student(s) discontinue such acts.
This implies that having the background knowledge of such students’ characteristics can help teachers to understand why some rules are being violated and how to set classroom rules that will help students as they pass through some developmental stages.
• The School Environment:
The kind of environment a school is situated and the type of school will determine what rules will be violated the most.
This should aid the teacher to understand what rules are likely to be broken and therefore set precautions to curb the violation of such rules instead of setting such rules that will be violated over and over again.
For instance, in a public school, where there is a likelihood of bullying being more rampant, both in the classroom and school environment.
Now, instead of teachers setting up classroom rules that states bullying is not allowed; classroom rules should be set like this:
Anyone caught in the act of bullying will undergo counseling sections for two weeks. The violator is expected to use 15 or more minutes of his/her break period for this. At the end of the counsel, this counselor will provide proof of attendance to the counseling sessions.
C) Scope Of Effective Classroom Rules.
These are rules that are stated to deter students from doing what they ought not to do. These kinds of rules help to prevent chaos, disorderliness, and danger.
Example of such rules are:
i) Raise your hand if you want to comment during a classroom interaction
ii) Switch off your phone when you are in the class
iii) Use appropriate and professional language at all times.
iv) Always use the sidewalks and keep your hands to yourself
v) Work quietly not to disturb others, to mention these few.
These are rules that are set up to help pupils, students or learners to keep up good behaviors and actions in the classroom.
Students who most times disrupt the peaceful conduct of the classroom are unintentionally given more attention than the cooperative and obedient students. Cooperative learners, if this continues, might start thinking that it is okay to disturb the class too, just to get some attention and recognition.
Therefore, for rules of the classroom to be effectual, there must be supportive rules to motivate cooperative students; to make them know that they are appreciated and supported and to encourage them to keep their good attitude up. Also, supportive rules might instigate violators to follow the rules in other to be supported.
Support can be in the form of positive reinforcement such as words of praise, usage of encouragement like thumbs up from the teacher, and applause, to mention these few.
Supportive classroom rules, for example, can be done at the end of each class. And students who do not violate any classroom rule will be applauded or will be allowed to address the class. Or well-behaved learners, at the end of the week, who do not flaunt any classroom rule will receive a prize, like a storybook.
These types of rules sure make classroom learning interesting, organized, effective and rewarding.
c) Corrective Rules:
These are rules intended to help student amend their behaviors and actions. Classroom rules would be ineffective if it does not include corrective rules. A combination of these three rules, preventive, supportive & corrective, is essential for a proper functioning classroom.
What is a Correction?
Correction, in its simplest definition, is making things right and it is a continuous process. A correction allows a student to improve and make the choice of obeying classroom rules.
Examples of corrective measures are:
a) Reporting of abnormal misconduct of wards to parents through a call, an email or a letter.
b) Reporting a student to the school administrator or a designated authority if a learner consistently violates classroom rules.
c) The teacher, if the rule was violated in the course of classroom interaction, could ask the violator or violators to stand for the remaining of that classroom interaction.
d) The violators could be made to clean up the class for 20 minutes after the close of the day.
e) Student violators could be made to read a helpful novel for half of the break period and explain in their own words or summarize the lessons learned.
Here are examples of corrective classroom rules:
a) If anyone uses any abusive words or coercive language, he or she will clean up the classroom after the close of the day’s activities. (But teachers should also be mindful of the learner not catching the bus if s/he uses the bus to commute)
b) Any student who engages in a fight, in the classroom, will be reported to his/her parents or guardians, and if such violent behavior becomes consistent, then, s/he will be reported to the school authorities to face the disciplinary panel.
c) Corrective classroom rules, for first graders and young children, could be, if you talk without raising your hands, you will not be allowed to talk for the rest of the class.
D) Guidelines For Setting Up Effective Classroom Rules
Reiterating once again, there are school rules and there are also classroom rules. School rules, generally, have to do with discipline, safety and coordination of learners, which is no different from classroom rules, which also involves order, safety, and discipline but in the classroom.
And therefore, the guiding principle in setting up school rules can and should be utilized in setting up classroom rules.
Having stated this, here are some guiding principles to follow when setting up classroom rules that will achieve results. These principles are based on the book: Guiding Principle, a resource guide for improving school climate and discipline by the US Department of Education (2014).
Classroom Rule Guiding Principle #1
School rules supersede classroom rules, and therefore classroom rules should be set following and in agreement with school rules. On no grounds should the corrective measures of the classroom rules be against those stipulated in the school rules.
This principle, for setting up effectual and justified classroom rules, should never be taken for granted because just as students are accountable to teachers, teachers or professors are also accountable to the school administrators. Therefore, the instructors shouldn’t take laws into their hands.
Classroom Rule Guiding Principle #2
Set high expectations for behavior and adopt an instructional approach to discipline.
Students will not be in your class forever, and so it is imperative to set rules that will prepare them for their next phase of life, and this involves setting rules with high expectations.
When these types of rules are set there is a need to adopt an instructional approach to discipline in the sense that rules should be included in instructional material and taught.
For example, if part of the classroom rule is to report any injustice, and instruct students not to retaliate or fight. The teacher should draw out a plan to teach students the following: “Fighting”, “why do people fight?” “Causes of fighting” “Disadvantages of fighting” and “the result of fighting”. By doing this, students will know more about the importance of the rule.
Classroom Rule Guiding Principle #3
Ensure that clear, developmental, appropriate, and proportional consequences apply to the misbehavior.
Proportional consequences generally involve disciplinary responses that match the severity of the violation. That is, mild consequences should be used for minor offenses, and harsher consequences or, in particular, exclusionary discipline be used as a last resort only for the most serious infractions.”
As earlier mentioned, teachers should take into consideration the developmental stage of learners before setting rules and instilling discipline.
Classroom Rule Guiding Principle #4
Teachers should not inculcate the habit of removing students from the classroom without a good reason. This disciplinary measure should be applied when rules have been violated consistently, and previous corrective measures prove unsuccessful.
In other words, sending a learner out of the classroom should be the last administered corrective measure, and when this is done, the necessary arrangements should be put in place to aid the learner catch-up with what was missed in the classroom.
5) Setting Up Effective Classroom Rules
The first thing to note in setting up effective classroom rules is the timing.
Setting up the classroom rules should be done in the first week of school, while adjustment(s) to the classroom rule can be done as the class progresses.
The students should be made to understand why rules are being set, and as previously noted, they should be involved in the setting of the classroom rule(s).
Secondly, setting up effective classroom rules depend on the disposition of the teacher. If the teacher is a transactional leader who strictly follows rules and takes no nonsense, then some students will most likely want to flaunt the rules to see what the teacher will do.
On the other hand, if a teacher is a transformational one, he or she will know how to balance strictness with patience and understand the students enough to explain the rules and encourage learners not to flaunt said rules. Students, with this type of teacher, will hesitate to flaunt the rules.
And thirdly, classroom rules must be set to linger long in the minds of students. This can be achieved by pasting such rules in the classroom walls in bold prints, for lower-level learners. This class of students can also be made to read it every morning. Higher level students might be told to pen it down and memorize it.
Classroom rules, in summation, should be a pragmatic agreement that can easily and naturally be understood and instilled in students. Hopefully, with the explanation given in this post, the question: How to set up effective classroom rules has been answered and thus anyone who teaches can now successfully set up one in the classroom.
And now that you have taken the time to read my opinion on the topic, please, keep reading to know what these educational stakeholders, comprising college professors and teachers, have to say on the topic.
A) Make sure they are attainable*. Sometimes, when rules are difficult to achieve, it is a turnoff for the kids, and they give up trying to figure out how to please the adult. If they spend too much focus on how to interpret a rule, there is less time focusing on the actual school work.
B) Make sure they are age-appropriate*. An example of this could be a teacher who transfers from the high school level to the elementary school level. The rules that worked with older students may not work with the younger students. Adjustments may need to be made.
C) Sometimes, the fewer the rules the better*. If you have 25 rules in your classroom, it is overwhelming. Pick 4 or 5 rules that are important to maintain optimum learning.
D) Give the rules a positive theme*. Teach the kids the rules in a positive framework. Telling the kids if you talk while I talk, you will lose recess is negative. If you say, please stay quiet while I talk to help everyone learn you are being more positive.
2) Rebekah Jordan
As the head of Lower School at Indian Mountain School and the Founder and CEO of Crossbridge Education. A progressive educator, who previously served as the founding head of The Peak School in Frisco, Colorado and has worked as a classroom teacher, consultant, family advocate, and experiential educator, I would say that the key to creating effective classroom rules that work to create a cohesive community where everyone can learn lies in these four strategies:
A) Understand what you’re trying to accomplish: Are you a teacher who believes that the best work is done in silence? Does your school embrace a mission of collaboration? Do you run a democratic classroom where you *need* student voices to be a part of any behavior contract?
Knowing your goal and teaching style will help you create a set of rules that you’ll be able to implement with fidelity and easily come back to without much effort. Think of it as a classroom mission statement. Who are you and what do you believe in?
B) Your rules should reflect that you care personally about your
students. Include items that help them know how to get their needs met. These don’t have to be fancy (think: How do I ask for help when I need it?
What if I need to leave the classroom?) but the systems need to be clear and in place, or you run the risk of your students feeling like they aren’t important members of the classroom community.
C) Be direct. Saying push in chairs and put away supplies is much more likely to get results than Leave the classroom better than you found it.
D) Be willing to make mistakes and leave room to adjust. Sometimes the group of students who walk into your room has different needs than what you expected. One student may need special adaptations or a whole group might require more or less structure than what you are used to. Meet your students where they are in their development.
And always, always remember that the best systems take practice. Spending a few weeks learning your systems and practicing using your rules will pay off tremendously in the long run.
With this in mind, I am going to tell you a little bit about how I set up effective rules within my reception class that were conducive to effective teaching and a calm classroom.
4 to 5-year-old children will use a variety of learning styles -- visual, auditory and kinaesthetic -- and so it is important to make sure that any expected rules are inclusive for everyone in the class by making use of this. Any rules displayed included an image, words and an associated action. For example, “walking feet”, “inside voices”, “listening ears”, “looking eyes”, “kind hands.”
It is really important to involve children in the decision-making process when it comes to class rules and also consequences. At the start of a term, discuss with the class what rules they think would be a good idea for everyone to follow and talk about why this is the case.
Using positive praise and reinforcement by noticing children who are following the rules and showing them off as an example will lead to more positive results that a culture of negative consequences for those who aren’t. Praising in public and reprimanding in private is key.
As an adult, it is important to model the behavior expected of children. Transitions can be the most difficult time for behavior within younger classes and helping children to recognize expectations at transition times without raising your voice is key.
Use a shaker, or a clapping rhythm to alert children that it is time to stop and listen. Play a piece of music for tidy up time and a calmer piece for sitting down on the carpet and calming down.
Having these recognizable routines is key for setting boundaries and expectations within any classroom and young children thrive when a routine like this is constant as it takes away anxiety about not knowing what is happening next. Having a visual timetable displayed can make a huge difference in behavior.
Whatever rules you decide on and put in place, make sure they are consistent and constant so that expectations are understood by everyone.
Upper-elementary children are learning the value of the social contract. They are emerging from an egocentric youth where the needs of others, while acknowledged, contend with the impulsive discovery or self-gratification within the mind of the child.
School life provides many opportunities for positive and lasting social-emotional lessons. Classroom rules, also known as guidelines, agreements, contracts, tenets, etc, should be created with student input. Rules must make sense to the child, so the bulk of them should be created together.
One or two rules can be dictated by the teacher, however. Sometimes there are particular needs for safety, materials use, or social interaction that a teacher needs in place to implement a successful program.
I have started the classroom rules-making process many different ways throughout my teaching career, from fully dictated to democratically created. The best method I have used is asking the children, how do you want to feel in school? and taking note of their responses. I accept all heartfelt ideas. I then give the class a day to think about this and the next day the floor is re-opened for more idea-sharing.
With this list on display, I begin a new conversation about our classroom within the broader school community to stir their prior knowledge and help them recall reference experiences from the past. Next, we begin to prioritize. I tell the children that we will use some of these hoped-for feelings to decide how we should treat each other, our classroom, and our school.
We will look for ways to make the third grade as positive and effective as possible for everyone. With this spirit in mind, I invite children to place a mark next to those feelings on the list that they feel strongly about. No ideas should be crossed off at any time unless the child who stated it has a change of heart about a hoped-for feeling that would disrupt or be unhelpful, such as crazy or I can do whatever I want.
These ideas should not be removed for shame’s sake, but because they might truly interfere with our learning and happiness. I’m always looking for opportunities for children to consider their impulses in a new light and reassess their desires or expectations.
We then look at the list, re-read it together, and consider how we can make the most positive of helpful feelings happen for each other. The rules we begin to draft should be stated in positive language, telling what a person should do. These become our agreed-upon behaviors and our rules.
If a rule is not understood, I have my students spend time considering all the ways they can make it come true. They then present their ideas to the class using a poster, a skit, a video, or any other communication medium.
When the rules are understood and agreed upon, we ratify them by signing and posting them on our classroom wall. We will revisit them within one or two months to see if we are following them, if they are good rules, and if they need revision. Changes are welcome, but they need to be carefully considered. Again, I want my class to feel comfortable reconsidering their decisions using their experiences as guides. School learning should be life learning, applicable beyond the classroom and moving forward with each child through the years to come.
Firstly, it’s important to keep a small number of classroom rules. I suggest no more than five, and I believe three is best. Rules should be more like umbrellas, or categories, that all of the classroom behaviors (good and bad) fit under. My go-to classroom expectations are responsibility, respect, and effort.
Secondly, these expectations must become an integral part of the language of the classroom. If you do it well, you’ll hear students using the words casually by November. Teachers need to label student behavior constantly, all year long. “Jane, thank you for being so responsible and taking all of those scraps to the recycling bin.” “Danny, it was respectful of you to wait for that group to finish their conversation before setting up the science materials.” This is the heart of classroom culture and it’s essential to continue prioritizing it all year long.
Lastly, behavior correction requires a commitment to a growth mindset. You cannot fake this. Teachers must believe that their students can and will grow in all areas of academic behavior, with the support of their classroom community.
For behaviors to change, students must be reflective and be taught explicitly what they should do differently next time. Conversations with students about behavior should always be private and respectful, never across the room in front of peers. The purpose of the conversation is growth. It often sounds like this, “Terry, which of our expectations are you struggling with right now? How can I help you get back on track?”
When the classroom community does focus on growth, it’s easy for kids to respond, “I’m off task… not my best effort. But, I can’t focus right now. Maybe a walk would help.”
And teachers can support growth by responding, “I think that sounds like a strategy worth trying. Next time, when you notice you are having trouble focusing, I’d like to see you take that break pass on your own. You are starting to charge of your focus.”
Classroom rules or expectations are one piece of classroom systems that work for teaching and learning. When they are in place, teachers can teach; conference with students; and the students can thrive. It’s worth every minute to go slow to go fast. Spend the time developing strong systems and a strong sense of community in your classroom and you will reap the benefits all year long.
I ask my students to come up with their own class rules. In Education, we call it the democratic approach which was pioneered by John Dewey. Interestingly, when I get my students to think about what rules they want, I find they come up with very serious and well-crafted rules.
I’ll often find my students coming up with thoughtful rules you wouldn’t expect children to think-up, such as we need to always listen to Mr. Drew because he is the adult in the room.
It is above all else an exercise in getting my students to think about what fairness looks like. It’s an exercise that helps them go beyond blindly following rules to thinking about why rules exist in the first place.
Classroom rules are spelled out quite explicitly in the syllabus each semester. Besides, on the first day of class, as we go around the room getting to know each other, creating a classroom community, I also work/modify the classroom rules during that time.
For example, if any phones are out at that time, we discuss that such technology is not necessary for use in the classroom, and then I inform them that if a phone is needed, I will let them know when they can get their phones out.
I also tell the students that if they need to take calls or send a text, I invite them to do so outside of the classroom. The use of a phone in the classroom is not an option, not even once, because it is a slippery slope.
My students and I, this last semester, discussed a safe space to speak freely. This is because it is becoming harder to get students to speak out in class. Anxiety is high and there is the fear of backlash as well as other students simply not paying attention and having their private conversations. This is something we are constantly working on.
We start each class period with a mindful moment to take a breath and engage in what we’re going to be doing next.
Going through the syllabus thoroughly the first day is helpful. I didn’t like to do that at first -- why waste their time? The students can read, right? However, I have learned that it is helpful to go through all of the rules, all of the aspects of the syllabus because many of them are NOT reading it, and/or maybe they are understanding it differently. It is also helpful to reiterate what is on the syllabus.
This semester I am also implementing various aspects of social and emotional learning in the classroom -- even though these are aspects currently employed in k-12. I strongly believe the method can benefit our college students as well.
I am eager to see how these methods can assist my online and face to face students to engage with each other. Which honestly, can be one of our biggest challenges in the community college environment.
The first is there is no judgment and all questions/thoughts are welcome i.e. This encourages discussion and allows me to see what type of challenges they might be working through.
The second is, we will learn something today, even if it is one thing, we will try our best to discover something new and then, I remind them if we can find some fun in what we’re learning we’ll retain the knowledge for a longer time.
Lastly, I let them know I am not here to change their mind but I will be sharing what I know to be true and they are free to research and form their own opinion. This approach has helped me build rapport and establish authority with approachability.
If I have about 2/3 minutes towards the end of the class, then I’ll do an intention setting exercise or breath work to close out the class together.
An infusion of peace and tranquility helps them retain what they have learned, and they look forward to coming back to (my) class.
9) David S. Wills
Setting up rules for the classroom is something that is ideally accomplished at the beginning of term as part of a contract between teachers and students. Regardless of age, it is important to make the students feel as though this is an agreement between them and their teacher, and as such, they should agree to abide by those rules.
They should be discussed on the first day of class and students can ask questions or raise objections. After that, the rules should be put prominently on the wall of the room for future reference.
Erik Erikson, (1950). The psychological theory of Human Development.
Jana S. Marzano, Robert J Mazano, Barbara B Gaddy, and Maria C.Foseid, (2005). Handbook of classroom management that works.
Thornberg, R. (2008). The lack of professional knowledge in values education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 1791-1798.
US Department of Education. (2014). The guiding principle, a resource guide for improving school climate and discipline.
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