Creating Classroom Rules with Students
One of the first things we always do at the beginning of the school year is to establish a set of classroom rules. Some teachers choose to create classroom rules before the year starts, and then introduce them to their students when the year begins. However, I like including the students in the rule-making process. I think it helps give them a sense of ownership in the classroom and how it will function. This is also a good community building exercise for your students at the beginning of the year. If you choose to include students in the rule-making process, the following are a few suggestions:
- Have an idea of the rules you want to have before you start. If you go into the process with no preparation or ideas of where you’d like to end up, it will take a turn for the worse. Jot down the most important rules to you before you involve the students so you can make sure they’re included by the end.
- Aim for “umbrella rules”, instead of very specific ones. If they’re too general, it leaves too much room for interpretation. If they’re too specific, you’d have to have fifty rules in order to cover everything. Try to find a good balance between the two.
- Try to have around five rules total. If you have too many it can get overwhelming. During the brainstorming process, write down as many rule suggestions as you want. Then go through and edit them down to a more reasonable number.
- Give the students ownership and some control in the process. Make sure to take their thoughts and suggestions seriously. Including them in the process won’t have as big of an impact if they feel like they’re not being heard.
- While making sure to give the students a sense of ownership in the rule-making process, don’t forget that YOU’RE ultimately in control. If you don’t think a rule will be of benefit to your classroom, then don’t use it. You’re the one who has to enforce them and manage the classroom so make sure the rules are something you can live with.
- Make sure to discuss with the students that these classroom rules are not all encompassing. They should be aware that these class rules are in addition to the school rules. Also, that there may be situations where you’ll need to make judgment calls that don’t necessarily follow the rules you’ve set out. This should help to cut down on arguments about it alter.
- You may want to have the students (and yourself) sign a contract at the end of the process saying that you all decided on these rules together and will abide by them.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and Stavros Sahtouris
About Hannah T
I am a 2010 graduate with a degree and certification in Elementary Ed., and I have worked with students from birth to junior high. I believe that one of the most important qualities to surviving a teaching career is a sense of humor. I also strongly feel that students are most successful when they are active and hands-on learners. My Mom was a Special Ed. teacher for almost 30 years, and my Dad was an English major, so I enjoy bouncing blog ideas off the two of them. This usually results in an exchange of great stories with my Mom, and a correction in my writing from my Dad. When they're not available, the job falls to my rescue dog, Coozie.