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Classroom Management Methods to Establish, Introduce Rules

Janelle Cox

Having a clear set of classroom rules is an essential component of your classroom management plan because it sets the tone for how you want your classroom to run. These rules will ensure that you will have a safe and respectful learning environment, and it will also help you use classroom management to help you run your class more efficiently. Children must understand that they need to follow these rules or their will be strict consequences. Here is a quick guide to help you use classroom management to establish, implement, and introduce rules.

The 3-Step Approach to Establishing Effective Classroom Management Rules

Step #1 – Create Rules

  • Create rules that are clear, comprehensive, and positive.
  • Limit the amount of rules between three and five to ensure they will be remembered.

Step #2 – Rehearse and Post Rules

  • Post the rules in a place that is easy for all students to see.
  • Go over each rule with the students and rehearse them if necessary.

Step #3 - Reinforce Rules

  • Reinforce each rule, and if it is broken, make sure that there is clear consequence.
  • Praise the students when acceptable.

Why You Must Limit Your Rules

Research shows that individuals tend to remember things better when they are limited to three to five things. For example, when you try and remember a phone number, you usually remember it in a group of three, four, or five numbers at a time. This is because when you group numbers and items together it is easier to remember. When establishing your rules, make sure to set no more than five at a time. When you post them for the students, post them grouped together.

Collaborative Rule-Making

Is it OK to collaborate with students when it comes to establishing classroom rules? Yes. Research shows that collaborative rule-making promotes a mutual respect where students tend to take more responsibility for their own actions. If you want to collaborate with your students on the classroom rules, then please follow these tips.

  • Jointly develop a small list of classroom rules.
  • The rules must be agreed upon and understood by all.
  • Discuss logical consequences that are related to the misbehavior.
  • Display the set of rules that is agreed to by all in the classroom as a reminder to students to follow them.

Sample List of Rules

What should your list of rules consist of? Whether you are creating them alone or collaborating with your students, your classroom rules need to be clear and consistent. It is best to be specific and not vague, and state a rule such as, “Raise your hand before speaking” instead of saying, “Do not talk out of turn.” When you are specific with your rules, then students understand what exactly is expected of them. It is also suggested to state each rule in the positive, versus saying “Do not.” Here is a list of suggested rules that most effective teachers use.

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  • Raise your hand before speaking.
  • Complete work at your own seat.
  • Bring required materials to class unless instructed otherwise.
  • Be respectful to others and use polite speech.
  • Follow directions the first time it is given.

As you can see in the suggested list above, the rules are very specific. They do not use the words “Do not” and are clearly not vague. When students are reading them, they know exactly what is expected of them.

Effective Consequences That Work

Why have consequences? Consequences are an effective way to teach students what happens when they follow a rule or break a rule. They learn quickly that they are the maker of their own destiny. The criteria for consequences can be gradual or natural. They can progress from less severe to more severe. Students will learn that if they repeat the undesired behavior then they will have a more severe consequence. It can begin with a warning, lead to getting something taken away or a phone call home, or get to something more severe like a trip to the principal’s office.

A more natural consequence may directly follow the event, like if a student jumps out of line they are directed to go to the end of the line or walk with the teacher. This type of consequence always happens immediately after the misbehavior.

Consequences need to be consistent in order to be effective. They also need to be meaningful or they will not work. The negative consequence needs to be undesirable, while the positive consequence needs to be desirable. Ultimately, the more you get to know your students, the better you will be able to determine what consequences will work best for them.

Do you have any tips of suggestions on to establish and introduce effective rules in your classroom? 

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.