How to Create Classroom Rules that Work

Classroom Rules

I have spoken about my opinions on classroom rules lots of times. We make classroom rules much more complicated than they need to be.

There are only two classrooms rules that make a difference.

Just what are they?


My Classroom Rules


1. Allow everyone to learn.

2. Allow teachers to teach.

Anything that interferes with either, breaks my classroom rules and must be stopped.

There are a lot of procedural niceties that I usually make up on the run.

However, I ALWAYS want kids to let everyone learn. That is an absolute.

Classroom Rules that Work

That's why that is a classroom rule and the others aren't.

There is not doubt that kids need limits.

Classroom RulesClassroom Rules and Limits

I am not a big one for choices. But I would like to share my thoughts on setting limits.

Limits exist along a continuum.

On one end is the teacher who sets limits for everything to the extent that kids will never act without checking with the teacher first.

On the other end is the classroom where there are no limits kids make all the decisions about how they behave.

Which classroom is the best for a classroom is always the focus of considerable debate.

Limits V Choices

Limits help kids frame their decisions about their behaviour.

I don't like giving kids choices.

Why Choices Never Work.

A choice implies selecting one option over another. You can really make a mess if you give kids the right to make a choice without the skills to do so.

Sometimes the choices kids are allowed to make are often inappropriate. For example a teacher might suggest that a student either completes the work or gets sent to the principal's office.

The teacher has given the student permission NOT to work. The teacher, in essence, is saying, "You have my permission to make a choice one of which is NOT working."

The teacher believes that when the student ends up in the principal's office it is a consequence. In fact it is one of the selections the teacher offered. Students should never be given the right to make these type of choices in the first place. 

A better option is to outline the consequences of not completing the work without giving the student a choice.

"Unfortunately, if you don't complete the work, I won't be able to mark it and I will let your parents know you refused to work in class"

Forget making punishments or making kids quake in their boots.

Save yourself the stress.

That is my opinion and I know others think otherwise. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

I believe teachers are better setting limits than giving choices.

Classrooms exist along the continuum.  On one end the teacher here sets a classroom where kids are expected to do what ever they are told. At the other end is the classroom where decisions are permitted without limits. In this classroom, kids are allowed to do whatever they wish.

Classrooms at either end are doomed to fail.

Setting Limits in Your Classroom

The middle ground makes sense. For example students are permitted to show displeasure (behaviour) but they must not use abusive language (limits).

Children can show anger (behaviour) but you must not hit (limit).

"What are some ways that are appropriate to show your anger?" (behaviour with limits).

Limits are not rules. Rules must be absolutes and apply to every situation.

Consider the two rules that I hold dear and true. I can not think of any situation where they would not be appropriate. Can you?

They are absolute and apply to every classroom and every learning situation.

Limits are contextual. Limits help students develop a sense of responsibility.

The reason limits are not rules as such is because these procedural matters change to suit the occasion. For example, sometime I want hands up, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I want kids in lines, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I want kids to talk, sometimes I don't.

I never involve students in making classroom rules or limits. Never!

Can you think of any situation where you were involved in making the rules? We weren't consulted in the road rules, the tax laws, superannuation policies, insurance rules. Where in the realm of reality is it appropriate for kids to be consulted about the complex issue of making decisions about rules? There seems to be some confusion that classrooms were set up as democracies.

I forget receiving that Memo. I don't think classrooms should be democracies, but would be interested in your opinion.

Kids need to make decisions about selecting their behaviour options.

Kids are not creatures of logic. They are victims of their own emotions.

For that reason, your rules need to be so clear and so unambiguous that they know when the rule is broken.

Forget rules like "Be respectful."

It is mentioned so many times but for a kid who is a continual miscreant, it has no meaning because it covers everything from using a tissue to shaking your hand to tipping you hat for a lady!

Keep your Classroom Rules Simple.

Have you enrolled in the Behaviour Management for Relief Teachers Online Course.

RTA BM course 250 x 200

Study online and in your own time.

Comodo SSL