AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Classroom Rules

Rules are general guidelines that set expectations for student behavior. Effective rules have common elements:

  • Broad and overarching, applying to all student activities and interaction
  • Written in a way that is understandable and acceptable to students
  • Linked to fair, enforceable and well-understood consequences

Most rules are stated in general inclusive language that encourages students to think and interpret, such as "Respect yourself and others." However, some rules may need to be more specific. For example, "Only one person may speak at a time." Also, it is generally recommended that rules be stated in positive terms, for instance, a rule such as "don't forget to bring your books" might be restated as "bring all necessary materials," or more generally, "be prepared."

What the Research Says

  • Establish four to six general "rules of the road" at the beginning of the school year.
  • Too many rules can complicate your task of enforcing rules and your students' task of following the rules.
  • Present, review and reinforce rules during the first three weeks of school.
  • Time for instruction increases once students function smoothly in the classroom.
  • Review and enforce rules throughout the entire year.

Tips for Teaching Rules

  • Begin teaching rules on the first day of school.
  • Teach rules as you would any other content area.
  • Encourage classroom discussions about:
         -the reasons for establishing rules;
         -the rationale behind a particular rule; and
         -examples of specific student behaviors that fall within the rules.
  • Post rules in a conspicuous place to focus attention on the expected behaviors.

Use this worksheet to record classroom rules, how you will teach it, and consequences for when students break the rules.